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National dish of Ethiopia can't have too many onions

It’s a traditional chicken stew, commonly referenced as the national dish of Ethiopia. But the backbone of “doro wot” actually is onions — “lots and lots of onions,” according to Daniel Neman, food writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Although Neman used five onions when testing this recipe, the case could be made for more, he said. Cooked and cooked, the onions become nothing more than caramelized texture in the finished dish.

If onions are the stew’s body, “berbere” is it’s soul. The indispensable spice blend of Ethiopia combines with its infused clarified butter, “nit’r qibe.” The two go far to flavor the stew before chicken enters the picture.

The stew’s final flourish, hard-cooked eggs, answers the age-old question about which came first, jested Neman. It isn’t just a dish to amuse diners or intrigue them with its origins but to immerse oneself in the act of preparing and sharing vital nourishment.

Doro Wot

5 onions

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

3 tablespoons minced ginger

Salt, as needed

7 tablespoons berbere (see related recipe)

5 tablespoons nit’r qibe, (see related recipe)

3 pounds chicken, in pieces

4 hard-cooked eggs

Peel and finely chop the onions; this is easiest done in batches in a food processor. Cook onions in a large pot over medium-high heat without oil for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the oil, cover and cook 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the garlic, ginger and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the berbere and stir thoroughly. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring frequently — about every 2 minutes.

Stir in the nit’r qibe, cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring frequently — about every 2 minutes. Add 1 cup water, cover and continue cooking and stirring for 15 minutes.

Season the chicken with salt and add to onion mixture. Cook until chicken pieces are completely cooked and tender, for 40 minutes.

Peel the hard-cooked eggs and cut a cross into top of each. Add eggs to pot and stir. Taste and add salt, if needed. Skim oil off top, if desired; it is especially easy if you refrigerate it first. Serve with injera bread or, untraditionally, with rice.

Makes 8 servings.

Adapted by Tribune News Service from “How to Cook Great.”

Tribune News Service photo