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Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew

From The New Southern Garden Cookbook by Sheri Castle

The somewhat unusual combination of chicken, sweet potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes, coconut, chutney, and curry has deep roots in the South, particularly in the Lowcountry, where there was ready access to imported spices and where expert cooks from many cultures stirred their own familiar ingredients into the pots.

This stew is similar to both West African groundnut (peanut) stew and chicken country captain. Both of those dishes call for a long list of ingredients slowly cooked together. I've streamlined the process by using ingredients (such as chutney and good curry powder) that deliver many flavors from one jar. The stew should be a little spicey and very aromatic. Don't skip the condiments. They are integral to the look and flavor of the dish. Plus, everyone will have fun doctoring up custom bowls of stew.

Ingredients
3 thick bacon slices, cut crosswises into 1/2-inch strips (about 3 ounces)
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons instant or all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon red curry powder or garam masala
1 cup chicken stock
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups peeled sweet potato cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 tablespoons golden raisins or currants
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup well-stirred coconut milk (lite or regular) or half-and-half
1/2 cup hot mango chutney
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
Hot cooked long-grain white rice, for serving
Cooked bacon, thinly sliced scallions, coconut, and additonal chutney, for serving

Instructions
1. Cook the bacon in a small Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat, stirring often, until browned and crispy. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Leave the drippings in the pot.

2. Season the chicken with the salt and pepper and brown in the bacon drippings, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and set aside.

3. Add the oil to the pot. When it's hot, stir in the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour and curry powder over the vegetables, and stir well. Cook, striring constantly, for 2 minutes. Slowly pour in the stock, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes and break them up with the side of the spoon. Cook, striring constantly, untilt the mixture is smooth and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the chicken, sweet potato, and raisins. Cover and simmer, stiring occasianally until the chicken is cooked through and the sweet potatoes are tender, about 8 minutes.

5. Stir in the peanut butter, coconut milk, chutney, and peanuts, and heat through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot over the rice, topped with the condiments.

Serves 8 to 10.