Chicken Stew with Sweet Potatoes and PeanutsWhile I have sung the praises of this glorious root before, I neglected to include its importance to Peruvian cusine. You cannot order a plate of proper ceviche without it being adorned with camote.
Turns out, the sweet potato is a staple crop for most of the world, not just Peru. According to the International Potato Center, more than 95 percent of the global sweet potato crop is produced in developing countries, where it is the fifth most important food crop.
Interestingly, while it is generally accepted that the potato is a product of the Andean larder, there is some controversy over the origin of the sweet potato. They are very different beasts - the potato being a tuber, or thickened stem, and the sweetpotato being a storage root.
No matter where it comes from, the sweet potato is ubiquitous on the Peruvian table and not just as an accoutrement for other dishes. Here is a little example of how you might find it prepared on its own.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken thighs and slowly brown on all sides, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate.
Add onion to pot and saute over low heat until softened, about 10 minutes; do not let onion brown. Return chicken thighs to pot. Add water, salt and cumin.
Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until chicken is very tender, 30-40 minutes.
Stir in ground peanuts, cornmeal and allspice and cook 15 minutes, scraping bottom of pot occasionally to prevent scorching. Stir in sweet potato sticks and cook 15-20 minutes or until sweet potato is tender and mixture is very thick.
Add salt and pepper to taste. If you like the flavor of cilantro, stir that in just before serving. Spoon stew into serving bowls.
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