Whenever someone shares a recipe with me, I feel honored and pretty darn confident that it will be good.

There is a reason a dish travels from one set of hands to another. It might be because it is foolproof, but often it is loved because it comes with a memory or a connection. It’s the pie someone’s mom made every Christmas. It’s a casserole that landed on every Sunday dinner table. Or it is a reflection of a person’s heritage and culture.

It has been tested again and again and passed those tests.

That handing down of recipes is the premise of “In Bibi’s Kitchen” (Ten Speed Press, 2020) by Hawa Hassan, the founder of the sauce company Basbaas and native of Somalia, with co-author Julia Turshen of New York.

The authors collected recipes from women from eight African countries: Comoros, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania. Throughout the book’s pages are photographs of the women, some still living in Africa, some who have moved away, cooking their food. The authors include descriptions of each country and provide accompanying question-and-answer interviews with the women, who share life experiences and cooking tips, too.

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Much of the cookbook focuses on vegetarian, even vegan, dishes, with the recipes heavy on beans, peas and vegetables. But the dish I’ve made from it features one of my favorite weeknight go-to’s: simply cooked chicken thighs.

Appropriately enough, this recipe was handed over to me by my colleague, Olga Massov, who made it first and then urged me to explore “In Bibi’s Kitchen” and try this dish because it delivers big, bright flavor with such little effort.

When I took my first bite of the Akoho Misy Sakamalao, which is from the chapter on Madagascar, I could see how it would move from one home cook’s table to the next. I could imagine how the fragrance of the dish could create visceral memories of the flavors to come.

Chicken thighs are rubbed with salt, garlic and ginger and then cooked in hot coconut oil in a cast-iron skillet until nicely browned. That’s it. (Hassan recommends marinating the thighs in the refrigerator overnight, but that isn’t essential for a delicious, 30-minute weeknight supper.)

Hassan describes these chicken thighs as “incredibly simple to make” and serves them over rice, spooning the chicken juices on top. On the side, she suggests roasted tomatoes or greens. The first time I made the thighs, I followed Olga’s advice and cooked the accompanying rice using coconut milk and water for the liquid and enjoyed them with a big green salad.

The recipe testifies to the near universal appeal of well-cooked chicken thighs. I’ll make this dish again, and I’ll recommend it to a friend or two — passing it on.


Ingredients

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced or finely grated
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Step 1

In a large bowl, stir together the garlic, ginger and salt until combined. Add the chicken to the bowl and, using your hands, rub the aromatics all over the chicken. If you have time, cover the bowl and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.


Step 2

When ready to cook the chicken, warm a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until you can hold your hand about 5 inches above it for no longer than 2 seconds. Add the oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until deeply browned and cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes, adjusting the heat under the pan as necessary, if the garlic and ginger start to burn.


Step 3

Divide the chicken among plates and serve warm.


Nutrition Information

Calories: 338; Total Fat: 16 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 188 mg; Sodium: 476 mg; Carbohydrates: 2 g; Dietary Fiber: 0 g; Sugar: 0 g; Protein: 45 g.


Adapted from “In Bibi’s Kitchen” by Hawa Hassan With Julia Turshen (Ten Speed Press, 2020).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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