I'm going to tell you a little love story....my love story. When I was living in Nashville, TN after college, I finally had the opportunity to go to Africa. It's something I'd wanted to do since childhood, the right opportunity just never presented itself. I had tried several times, but it never worked out. This time it was finally working! Until....my trip got cancelled. I was devastated. I thought the stars had aligned, I even planned to quit my job for this trip, and now I just had to "pick another trip." I was heartbroken, but settled on a trip to Ethiopia that fit the timeframe between quitting my job and moving to NYC for graduate school.
In July of 2009 I finally set out on the adventure I'd waited for for years. The trip was life changing in so many ways. I completely fell in love with Ethiopia. The people are truly beautiful, inside and out. I became wonderful friends with the people on my team, I still keep in touch with many of them, getting married and having babies. But we also became friends with the Ethiopians that travelled with us. Our translators were literally our saviors! Besides all of their translation duties, they patiently taught a bunch of clueless Americans about their culture, their language, and their beautiful country.
Fast Forward to 2011. I had 1 more summer during graduate school, and I was toying with the idea of moving to Ethiopia forever, or maybe I'd just stay in NYC? I decided to use my last summer to do research for my capstone project, as well as figuring out if Ethiopia was the place for me. So once again, I packed my bags and headed to Ethiopia. It sounds easy, but that was a stressful time! I had to sub-let my place in NYC, arrange work and housing in Ethiopia, renew my passport last minute (oops), and quit my job....again. But off I went.
Before I left, I reconnected with Surafel, our beloved translator. A mutual friend actually suggested that I stay with him until I got my feet on the ground. At the time he had a teenager, another woman, and her baby all living with him. But he graciously accepted me into their rag tag bunch. I guess that was the beginning of the end. My admiration and love for him quickly grew into true love. It was really confusing, haha, and really unexpected. But it is hard to just dismiss a guy that is basically a saint. So there I was, falling in love with Ethiopia, and falling in love in Ethiopia. It definitely wasn't the summer I'd expected, but just a few weeks later we got engaged!!
None of my family had ever met him, and the only friends that knew him were the people I'd travelled to Ethiopia with in 2009. Boy were they surprised, haha! I decided to tell our friend that we were dating, and she just laughed because she wasn't sure if she should even believe me or not. But it was all happening, however unexpected. I had to return to the US at the end of the summer to finish grad school. That was a rough semester. I was trying to catch up to life in NYC, and Surafel was in Ethiopia wedding planning. Thankfully I made it, I graduated! Right after Christmas in 2011 I returned to Ethiopia to get married. A few days later my parents flew over to meet my fiancé, and join us for the wedding. We got married in Addis Ababa on January 12, 2012....then again on January 15th.....and last but not least, our American wedding on October 20, 2013. So now we're really, reeeeally married!
This recipe is not an Ethiopian dish, but it is inspired by my love for my Ethiopian husband. It uses berbere, which is a commonly used spice mix in almost all Ethiopian food. It is heavily spiced and flavorful, but not too spicy. Traditionally this mix is dried, ground, and mixes at home, so everyone has their own mixture and method. I highly recommend you find an Ethiopian market to buy your berbere, but Amazon also has some options. I spatchcock the chicken so it cooks more evenly, and quickly enough for a weeknight! I hope you'll give this recipe a try, and bring some African flavors into your home.
Ethiopian Spiced Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
2T berbere spice mix
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
- Spatchcock the chicken by using sharp scissors to cut down each side of the backbone. Remove the backbone, saving it for making bone broth later. Flip the bird skin side up, and press down firmly on the breast to crack the sternum so the bird will lay flat (Nomnompaleo has a great step-by-step post on how to spatchcock a chicken here).
- In a small bowl mix together the ghee and berbere, and 1T salt until it forms a paste.
- Carefully loosen the skin from the meat on the breast and thighs. Take some of the spice paste in your hand and rub it between the meat and skin. Cover as much of the meat as you can, but being careful not to tear the skin. Using any remaining paste, rub it on top of the skin, then sprinkle the skin with another pinch of salt.
- Place your chicken on a rack that is in a rimmed baking sheet.
- Place it in the oven, and let it roast for 45 minutes, until the breast is about 150-160 degrees.
- Move the chicken to a cutting board, and cut the chicken into your desired pieces. I generally keep the thigh and drumstick together, and serve them as our meal. Then, I shred the breast meat to be used for another meal. However, if you have more than 2 people, you'll need to serve more than just the thighs and drumsticks.
If you decide to make this chicken, snap a photo for me! Post your picture on Instagram, and tag me at #ideatthatfoodtoo. You can also Pin this picture so you don't forget to make these another time!