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Fierce Foodie: My Dead Tastebuds Offer You This


A tasty blogumn by Roya Hamadani

Okay, so here it is: my best recipe.  This is my shining star, the dish that generates rave reviews from everybody who has tasted it, the dish that elicits cries of joy due to its sheer awesomeness.  I almost can’t believe I’m sharing it.  Maybe it’s the cold I’ve had for three weeks running that’s making me so generous.  Right now all I can savor is lozenge de menthol.  Somebody else ought to put their taste buds to good use.

Now to happier thoughts:  I first ate something like this dish at a Peruvian restaurant called La Feria, which, if you are ever in Pittsburgh you should definitely, definitely try.  (Besides serving a fresh and constantly changing daily menu, it’s also artisan gallery of Peruvian handiwork so you can shop while you wait for your food – two great activities in one.)  I loved the crunch of the roasted peanuts and the sweetness imparted by the tender raisins, all plumped up with pan juices.  But it was the combination of flavors in the dish I had never before tasted that made me hungry to know more.  Later research revealed a curious blend of basil, cumin, and cinnamon with perhaps my favorite ingredient of all time, parmesan cheese.

Dried basil, cumin and cinnamon – this unlikely grouping is the crux of the dish. Basil, native to Iran, has been used in cooking for 5,000 years.  Cumin from India entered Spanish cuisine via Arab rule in the 15th century.  Cinnamon, also native to India, has been known since 2000 B.C. and made its appearance in Europe during the Middle Ages.  Cumin and cinnamon I have often used together in Indian curries; it was the basil that was the key, the flash of insight or accident that is the mark of every great dish.

So, with a little tinkering, here is my version of Peruvian Garlic Chicken, to be served over mashed potatoes blended with parmesan cheese.  Yum!

Peruvian Garlic Chicken

The great thing about this recipe is that it is equally delicious with or without the use of chilis.  I make this dish mild to suit my taste, but the flavor of the dish is strong enough to take plenty of heat.  Serve it over parmesan mashed potatoes and you will swoon.

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Medium Onions — chopped
6 Cloves Garlic — chopped
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Basil
1 Cup Peanuts — roasted and chopped
1 cup raisins
1/2 Cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
2 Pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — chopped
Salt And Pepper — to taste

Optional Heat Settings:  for mild, add 1 tsp Aji Peruvian pepper sauce or a pinch of chili powder, for maximum heat, use 4 chopped Rocoto or jalepeno peppers

Heat oil in large saucepan and saute onions and garlic until the onions are soft. Next, brown the chicken.
Add chiles or sauce or powder if using, cinnamon, cumin, basil, peanuts, raisins and 1 cup water. Stir well. Simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is done. 2 minutes before serving, add cheese and stir well.
Serve over mashed potatoes with parmesan cheese blended in and get ready for the compliments!