Cuisines of the Axis of Evil

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Foreign policy analyst Chris Fair dishes foods from geo-political hot spots in her book, Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States: A Dinner Party Approach to International Relations. She explores the gastronomy from Iran, Iraq and North Korea, countries which were coined the "Axis of Evil" by President George W. Bush.

Khoresh-e-Hulu (Chicken and Peach Stew)

  • 1/3 cup ghee (or less ideally, vegetable oil), plus an additional 2 Tablespoons for the peaches
  • 3 large white onions, sliced into thin rings
  • 2 lbs  boneless chicken breasts cut into strips (You can use chicken tenders to minimize prep time. Some folks use veal, duck or even beef.)
  • 1 Tablespoon advieh, a Persian spice mixture (There are several variants; most include cinnamon, cardamom, and dried rose petals. Available through online vendors listed in the appendix.)
  • 2 1/2 tsps salt (Fair uses either rock or sea salt)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 12 firm peaches
  • 3/4-1 cup lime juice (Fair likes key lime juice, store-bought or freshly squeezed)
  • 1 cup demerara or raw cane sugar (you can substitute the white stuff if you must!)
  • 1/2 tsp saffron, ground with either a sugar cube or 1/8 tsp rock salt in a mortar and pestle dissolved in 3 Tablespoons of warm water (If it doesn't completely dissolve, don't worry. Just be sure to get all the saffron mixture into the pot when required. You can even rinse the mortar out with another 3 tablespoons of warm water.)
  • Parsley, finely chopped

1. Heat a large skillet that has high sides and a cover. (Cast iron works well.) When warm, add the ghee or oil. When the ghee has melted or the oil is hot, add the onion and fry until translucent. Add the chicken strips and cook with the onions on medium heat for about 20 minutes.

2. Toss the advieh, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes.

3. While this simmers, begin to prepare the peaches. Rinse off the fuzz and remove the pits. Slice as you would for a peach pie. (5-6 wedges per peach, depending on its size) Toss peaches slices with a couple tablespoons of lime juice, working quickly to avoid browning. In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee or oil. (Use a nonstick pan or heavy cast-iron skillet to avoid burning.) In batches, fry the peaches until they are golden, about 3 minutes on each side. If you are good at parallel processing, you can fry up one batch of peaches while you slice up the next batch. This means you avoid browning and you obviate the step of tossing with lime juice.

4. Mix 3/4 cup lime juice, the sugar and the saffron water. Set aside.

5. Add the peaches to the same skillet as the chicken. Add the lime juice, saffron, and sugar mixture. Cover the skillet and simmer for 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If it's too sweet, you can add a bit of lime juice. If it's not sweet enough, you can add a bit more sugar.

6. Keep this mixture in the oven at low heat (200°) while you prepare the rest of the meal.

7. Garnish with parsley.

Music break: Tuxedo Junction by The Original Checkmates