Dr. Susan’s Summer Experiment: Ethiopian Cuisine Blog #3
Ethiopian Summer Experiment-3
Today I had planned to try my hand at a tempting yeshiro (chickpea wat), but it was not to be. I had gone grocery shopping yesterday and had in my refrigerator a 3.5-pound package of lean stew meat that I planned to divide up today and freeze for future use. Alas, however, we went to bed around 11:30 pm last night not realizing that one of the refrigerator’s French doors was slightly ajar. I woke up around 3 am, went to the kitchen to make a cup of peppermint tea, and discovered the mishap. In this case, insomnia was my friend, because had this not been found until morning I’d have been crying into my trash can while discarding $15 worth of meat (yes, I am a bit obsessive about food safety as was my grandmother).
Bottom line: there was nothing else to do but cook the whole package of meat up all at one time T-O-D-A-Y. The solution: a batch of beef alicha (Cookbook 10). Thus, a potential disaster turned out to be a happy accident after all.
An alicha is a delicious mild stew similar in consistency to the spicy wat. Alicha uses no butter, and only a small quantity of oil (I used olive), so it is not as rich as the doro wat I prepared a few nights ago. It is, however, just as flavorful in its own way. It is traditionally served with injera, or sometimes rice, but it is luscious just plain.
The Cookbook recipe calls for 2 lbs. of beef, so I had to upsize it for the quantity of meat I had. All my ingredients were already on hand except a fresh hot green chilli [sic] pepper, so for that, I had to improvise with a 4-oz. can of Hatch green chilies instead. The result was very pleasing indeed, comparable in taste, texture, and color to the restaurant version.
As before with the doro wat, I found the cooking time required to reduce the alicha to the consistency I was accustomed to nearly double that specified in the recipe. My skillet was very full, so maybe I cooked it a trifle slowly to avoid a spillover. It’s also possible that the meat itself had a high water content, or that the extra volume slowed things down. Whatever the cause, I was determined to wait it out and take the time required to get to the consistency I wanted.
By the time the alicha was done it was past our normal lunch time, but the wait was worth it. Charlie gobbled it up, along with the last of the gomen wat (collards) and fresh quia (cucumber and tomato salad). A handful of Bing cherries finished the meal nicely.
The accompanying photograph shows my skillet of beef alicha AFTER our two generous half-cup servings had been taken out. There’s still enough for me to take to church tomorrow for our Pentecost Sunday covered dish dinner. It is a tradition in our church for everyone to bring a dish representative of their ethnic heritage. I’m going to engage in a little well-intentioned cultural appropriation with this dish. I’ll get a reality check, sure enough, because ours is a historically African American church, and some of the women there have been cooking these dishes since they were little girls in their grandmothers’ kitchens. If I get feedback from the real experts in this cuisine, I’ll share it in a future blog.
Looking ahead, I will find a niche for that chickpea wat soon, probably next week. My next venture will be fish tibs since my supermarket has cod on sale. I’ll also be making a stab at fasoulia, which is green beans and carrots. Stay tuned!
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