When I started my cooking journey, I began with cooking my mom’s authentic recipe of Bumbu Rujak Chicken Barbeque (see My First Post).
My mom ever mentioned that every beginner in cooking should start with chicken. She did not explain why, it’s simply like an unwritten golden rule in the world of cooking.
One Sunday, after church, I went to a book store and found a cook book written by the famous writer and poet Maya Angelou titled ‘Hallelujah! The Welcome Table’.
What an amazing book written by an amazing woman! This is the kind of book I wish I could write one day.
I love all the stories and recipes she wrote in that cook book but one particular chicken recipe named ‘Smothered Chicken’ caught my special attention where she wrote a very interesting story about Oprah Winfrey, another amazing lady whom I admired.
Maya Angelou’s smothered chicken is delicious and quite easy to cook. It tastes yummy and creamy yet it’s sinless because the ingredients used are healthy stuffs. I give the full recipe here, and then add how I adapted it when I cooked for my family.
Smothered Chicken by Maya Angelou
Oprah calls this suffocated chicken!
- 2 (3-pound) fryer chickens
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 medium onions , sliced
- 1 pound button mushrooms , sliced
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- 2 cups chicken broth
Wash and pat dry the chicken. Cut each chicken into pieces and place the pieces in a bowl with lemon juice and water to cover. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Wash the lemon water off the chicken and season it with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in 3/4 cup of the flour.
In a large skillet, heat the butter and 1/4 cup of the vegetable oil over high heat. Add the chicken pieces and fry until dark brown. Remove them from the skillet.
Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup vegetable oil to the skillet. Cook the flour until it’s brown.
Add the onions, mushrooms and garlic, stirring constantly.
Put the chicken back into the skillet. Add the chicken broth and water to cover. Turn the heat to medium and cook for 25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
My version of ‘Oprah’s Suffocated Chicken’
I used 400 – 500 grams of boneless, skinless chicken breast instead of cut up from whole chicken because I usually stock up boneless chicken breasts in my freezer. I chopped the breast into small cubes and cooked it up per the directions, but with a little less time since the smaller chopped pieces would cook faster that a cut up chicken.
I substitute the chicken broth with chicken cubes diluted in water (it’s what I had) and reduced the amounts for the other remaining ingredients in half.
Maya Angelou suggests to serve the smothered chicken with Buttermilk Biscuits but I, as Indonesian, served it with rice. And the result was so yummy.
In Indonesia, we have hundreds if not thousands of chicken dishes but nothing tastes like Maya Angelou’s Smothered Chicken. The closest which I can relate is our famous “Opor Ayam” (Braised Chicken in Coconut Milk) or we can call it:
Indonesian Smothered Chicken
Makes 6 servings, with other dishes
- One whole 3½-pound chicken
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ cup thin-sliced onion
- 1 clove garlic, sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 candle-nuts, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon peanut or corn oil
- 1 teaspoon tamarind, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 piece (aboud 2 cm) of galangal
- 1 piece or 1 square inch of lemon peel
- 2 pieces of salam leaves
Cut the whole chicken into eight pieces, discard the loose skin and fat and rub the pieces with the lemon juice. Broil for five minutes, turn the pieces over and broil for five minutes more. The chicken will be partially cooked and firm.
In a blender, prepare a smooth sauce-mix of the onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, candle-nuts, pepper and ½ cup of the coconut milk.
Heat the oil in a saucepan or wok, and pour the sauce-mix. Stir fry for two minutes; then add the remaining coconut milk, the tamarind juice, salt, sugar, salam leaves, galangal and lemon peel. Add the pieces of precooked chicken, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for five minutes, basting frequently; then continue to cook for thirty minutes more. The liquid will have to reduce to a rather thick sauce, and the chicken will be tender but still firm.
The taste of ‘the Indonesian Smothered Chicken’ is also yummy and creamy but different creaminess from Maya Angelou’s as it has different source for the gravy sauce – coconut milk Vs butter.
Usually people in Indonesia eat ‘Opor Ayam’ with other dishes such as ‘Gudeg’ and ‘Sambal Goreng Krecek’ (see my post ‘Hit the Road Jack Fruit’).