A classic Ethiopian chicken dish made with berbere spice, red onions, garlic, ginger, lots of butter and red wine. Visit the Why Did the Chicken Cross the Globe? series that inspired this recipe to find out more about this dish. See Notes at the bottom for serving suggestions.
5 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/4 pounds)
4-5 medium red onions very finely chopped in a food processor or grated on a cheese grater, then chopped
4-5 garlic cloves
A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger
1/4 cup cold water
Between 3-5 ounces berbere spice, depending on how spicy your berbere is and your heat tolerance
1/2 cup dry red wine such as a Zinfandel
1 chicken, 3-4 pounds, cut into pieces, skin removed (see notes)
4-6 hard boiled eggs (1 per person)
Plain yogurt or farmer's cheese for serving
Injera bread for serving (often available for take-out at Ethiopian restaurants; if this is not an option, other delicious choices are naan or pita bread, or rice, although they are not authentic)
1. Clarify the butter: cut it into chunks and add it to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. The butter will melt and white foam will develop across the top. Continue cooking until the foam subsides and the bubbling ceases, about 30-40 minutes. At this point, the milk solids are on the bottom of the pan, and the clarified butter is on the top. Pour the clarified butter into a measuring cup (you should have 2 cups) and discard the milk solids.
2. Add the onions to a dry, heavy pot such as a Dutch oven, over medium heat. Stir occasionally as the water evaporates with the lid off, about 20-30 minutes, until the onions begin to stick to the bottom of the pot.
3. As the onions cook, peel the garlic and finely grate it on a microplane. (Or you can use a garlic press.) You should have about 2 tablespoons. Peel the ginger and grate it do the same with it. You should have about 1 tablespoon of grated ginger.
4. When the onions begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, add the garlic and ginger and turn the heat to medium-low. Stir frequently to avoid burning and continue cooking for about 10 minutes with the lid off, allowing the mixture to darken.
5. Stir in the clarified butter, simmer for 15 minutes with the lid off, then add the water. Stir in about half the berbere spice, taste, and add more as desired (see notes). When you think you have the berbere seasoning just right, simmer for 15 minutes partially covered, then add the red wine and simmer for another 5 minutes with the lid off.
6. While the mixture simmers, prepare the chicken pieces by cutting 2-3 slits into the meat of each piece, perpendicular to the bone but not all the way down to the bone, to allow the flavorful sauce to better penetrate the meat. When ready, add the dark-meat pieces to the sauce and turn the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on, then add the rest of the pieces. Turn all the pieces to be sure they are well covered by the sauce, then put the lid back on and simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
7. While the chicken cooks, peel the hard boiled eggs and cut small wedges out of the whites of the eggs, stopping before you get to the yolk.
8. When the chicken is fully cooked, carefully add the eggs to the Doro Wat and turn everything to be sure it is well-covered by the sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are heated through.
Doro Wat is fun to serve and fun to eat. I’ve made this with kids in summer cooking camp, and we’ve eaten it at Ethiopian restaurants in Adventure Camp. Each time, the adults all fret that it might be too spicy, or the kids won’t like the injera bread that’s served with it. But each time the kids have fun eating with their hands, dipping and mixing things together, and trying something new.
Ethiopian food tends to be really spicy, so you can use as much berbere spice as you can tolerate. Or, you can take the opposite approach - go easy on it during cooking, and serve a shaker of berbere spice on the table like they do in Ethiopia, so everybody can spice up their own portions.
To serve the classic Ethiopian way, ladle the Doro Wat onto a large round of injera, along with things like collards and yogurt. Injera is made from teff flour, and to my Western palate, it actually doesn’t register as “bread.” It’s more like a giant crepe that tastes a bit like a pickle. It contributes a sour note to each bite, which is the perfect counterpoint to all the other flavors.
Everyone eats with their hands, tearing off pieces of the tangy, fermented bread to wrap up each bite. Actually, it’s traditional for people to not only eat with their own hands, but to feed each other as well, as a gesture of love and generosity. The most honored person is often served first this way, as a sign of respect.