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Can a recipe become extinct? If so, this one should be on the endangered recipe list. It is described in two historic texts (see below), but (as far as can be determined) recipes appear in print only in Ghanaian Favourite Dishes by Alice Dede (Accra, Ghana: Anowuo Educational Publications, 2R McCarthy Hill, 1969) and Barbara Baëta's West African Favourites: Cookery Cards (Accra, Ghana; Moxon Paperbacks, 1972), from which this recipe is adapted. The origin of Ashanti Chicken is unclear. It is remarkably different than the typical African soup or stew. It is interesting to note that Robert Hamill Nassau (see below) believes that the dish was invented by a Fanti cook, perhaps not too long before he first encountered it. But why would a Fanti cook call his creation Ashanti Chicken? (The Fanti (Fante) and Ashanti (Asante) both live in Ghana, the former "Gold Coast".) Was it invented by Africans and named by Europeans? Is it a creation of West African cooks employed by Europeans, or does it predate Europeans' arrival in Africa? Is Ashanti Chicken the ancestor of the Turducken, a culinary creation popularized by (but invented by?) Louisiana's Chef Paul Prudhomme? In any case, there should be lots of "ooohs" and "aaaahs" at the table when you slice all the way through what looks like a normal roasted chicken without hitting any bones to reveal a delicious pairing of stuffing and meat.
What you need
What you do
Deboning a chicken Deboning a chicken takes some practice. You may want to ask your butcher to provide you with a de-boned bird. If you want to try it yourself, you may wish to refer to one of the many fine Turducken websites for instructions on de-boning fowl. (Turducken is a roasted de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck stuffed with a stuffed de-boned chicken.) Barbara Baëta gives these instructions:
"Remove all the bones from a dressed chicken by slitting the skin and the flesh down the backbone. With a very sharp pointed knife, work the framework of bones out of the chicken. Cut the leg bones to leave 1/2 inch of knuckle at the end of each for tidy appearance."
In Follow the Red Dirt Road: The Story of our Life in West Africa from 1947 to 1958 (internet published: dpicg.com/joan_beech/index.html) Joan Beech describes the same dish.
. . . to celebrate my return, he [Kwasi, the cook] cooked a special dinner on one of my first evenings back.
This was a local delicacy called Ashanti Chicken. When he proudly brought the dish into the dining room and placed it on the table, it looked like a nicely browned roast chicken. He had cooked this many times before, and I couldn't understand what he was looking so pleased about, until J.R. cut into it and revealed the astonishing fact that it was completely boneless and was entirely stuffed with minced chicken. In fact it took two chickens to make one Ashanti Chicken. I was speechless when I thought of how many hours he must have laboured away to produce this culinary masterpiece - completely skinning two chickens, removing all the bones, mincing up and cooking all the flesh and then stuffing it back into one of the skins into the shape of a real roast chicken. Or perhaps both chickens were cooked first and then taken apart. I was so stunned at the result that I never did find out how it was done, but managed to convey to Kwasi my unbounded admiration for his efforts, and the result was that for weeks he walked around looking smug. I have eaten other Ashanti Chickens at other bungalows, one of which I remember was stuffed with sausage meat (not the same thing at all), but never have I tasted one to equal the one cooked by our Kwasi.
In My Ogowe: Being a Narrative of Daily Incidents During Sixteen Years in Equatorial West Africa (The Neale Publishing Company, New York, 1914) Robert Hamill Nassau twice describes Ashanti chicken prepared by his cook, who was from the Gold Coast (Ghana).
At Iseme's [village], my cook prepared a chicken in a, to me, unusual manner. After the feathers had been plucked, he slit the skin over the breast, and readily skinned the entire fowl by simply turning it out of its skin, as one would slip out of one's coat. Then, cutting all the meat from the bones, and chopping it small, with condiments, he stuffed the meat back into the skin of the body, wings, and legs; and, then roasted it, as any other chicken is usually roasted. It was attractive eating, free from bones. It was called "a la Ashantee" having been invented by a Fanti cook of Accra, on the Gold Coast.
(III - Prospecting - 1874)
My cook made a special effort for my dinner, an Ashanti-chicken. (I have already described this mode.) There being no bones, the fowl when placed on the table is readily divided, by two cross-sections, into four portions, just the right size for a helping, as African fowls are not large.
(XI - The Belambla Hut - October 1875)
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Ohun ti atejumo ki ijona. (Yoruba) : If you attend to what is roasting, it will not be burnt. N.B. -- Meaning, do the thing with all thy might.
(from: Wit and Wisdom from West Africa, Richard Francis Burton)