Chicken with Coconut Milk

I have long been a fan of Indian food and at some point I decided I wanted to try my hand at cooking it. This is the recipe book I bought:

Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India

Indian food isn’t particularly difficult to make, but it is a little time consuming. In most cases you need to marinate your meat or vegetables, and there’s a lot of chopping involved. That’s not a problem for me–I love doing food prep.

I tend to make the same recipes over and over again–lamb korma, chicken vindaloo, puri, spinach paneer. Homemade puri (puffed, fried bread) is delicious and if you don’t mind getting a little messy, it’s worth the trouble.

Today I decided I wanted to make something different, so I chose Chicken with Coconut Milk. I’m crazy about anything coconut, and I love it in curries.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Chicken thighs, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, vegetable oil, mustard seeds, onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeno pepper, fennel seeds, salt, unsweetened coconut milk, and lemon juice.

Trim and cube 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

Make the rub by combining 6 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp ground cloves

Throw it all in with the chicken and mix it all about, then cover and refrigerate for one hour.

While the chicken is soaking up the spicy goodness, slice 2 cups of onion as thin as you can. Use a mandoline slicer if you have one (watch those fingers!). I have one but I was too lazy to take it out so I just sliced it up by hand. One large onion came out to about 2 cups.

Mince up 2 tsp garlic and 2 tsp ginger, then slice your jalapeno lengthwise.

Grind up a 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle.

Add 1/4 cup oil to a large covered frying pan and using medium high-heat, heat 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and 2 bay leaves until they begin to pop.

Uncover and add your onion. Stir those suckers until the edges are nice and brown, then add your garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and fennel seeds. Stir ’em up for about two minutes.

At this point your house will smell so divine you’ll wish you could bottle it.

Add the chicken and stir for another few minutes. Make sure the onion and spices don’t burn.

Add 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk, and 1/4 cup water. Wait until it boils, then simmer partially covered for 30 minutes.

About the simmering process: I don’t generally trust simmering times. If I just “set it and forget it” I often come back to find too much or too little liquid has evaporated. In this case, after about 20 minutes of simmering the sauce seemed to be too watery so I turned up the heat a little and took off the cover entirely. Then I could monitor the consistency of the sauce before I continued with the recipe.

Did you think that was the last of the coconut milk? Oh no. When those 3o minutes are up, stir in 1/2 cup MORE coconut milk and bring to a boil again.

Finish up by adding 1 tsp fresh lemon juice.

Pour over rice (I made brown rice, which takes FOREVER) or make some of that puri I was talking about. Naan works too (garlic is always my choice).

Now, you might be asking what kind of beverage to serve with your beautiful curry. A nice lager (try Kingfisher) is a good (though filling) choice. Wine-wise, Gewürztraminer is my favorite pairing with Indian food (and nowhere else unless it’s a dry one). An Oregon Pinot Noir will work too. I’ve heard tell that Champagne pairs well with spicy Indian dishes, but I’ve never tried it–if you do you’ll have to let me know.

NOTE: I’m working on these food photos, folks. It’s a lot harder to take good ones than I thought! Also, about the speakers/computer in the background, I like to watch Hulu while I cook. Lately I’ve been watching episodes of the old Bob Newhart Show–you know, the one where he’s a shrink and married to Suzanne Pleshette.

Holly West

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