Saturday, January 2, 2016

Coconut Curried Chicken

While the term 'curry' is generally associated with Indian cuisine, curried dishes can be found throughout southeast Asia and have of course been imported throughout the west. As I noted in my prior post on curried pork, they are also popular in the Caribbean.

Julian's Coconut Curried Chicken
Just to be clear, curry is generally understood to mean vegetables or meat cooked with spices in a gravy. Curry powder (from the Indian word "Kari") was commercialized by the British East India Company in the mid-17th century where it found the flavors along the coast of southeast India. So, as they were in the business of exporting spices, the combined the spices into a mix and called it 'curry powder' and the term went from meaning a slow cooked stew to a spice blend,

Today's dish is perhaps more Thai than it is Indian. While Indian dishes tend to use more dry spices, Thai cuisine often uses curry paste and fresh herbs instead. Thai curries are cooked for a shorter period of time and typically include vegetables, chicken, seafood accented with fresh herbs like mint, cilantro and basil. They also tend to be soupier, thanks to the addition of coconut milk.

You can make your own coconut curry sauce as noted at the bottom of the recipe, or purchase a good quality pre-made sauce from your grocer.  Today I'm using the one pictured below, although you can purchase many brands that are good. Our favorite market has an isle of both Indian and Asian specialty foods, and there were many choices.

A good quality white rice is traditional for this dish, but as you can see above I'm using leftover yellow (Spanish) rice. As I always say, use what you have in the house. But it is better with freshly made white rice.

Ingredients  (serves 4)
4 chicken breast halves (boneless and skinless)
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons curry powder
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
1/2 bell pepper (thinly sliced)
1 large garlic clove (finely chopped)
18-24 ounces coconut curry sauce*
1 cup frozen peas

white steamed rice

Seasoned Browned Chicken
Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks and slice the vegetables. To the flour add the curry powder and combine. In a Dutch oven or heavy skillet, heat half of the oil on medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. In small batches, toss the chicken in the flour mixture to coat, and carefully place it into the hot oil. Let cook on one side for 3-4 minutes until browned and the turn the pieces and brown the remaining sides. Remove from the cooking vessel and reserve, then brown the remaining chicken using the additional oil as needed.

When all of the pieces are browned and removed from the pan, use a paper towel and tongs to wipe out any burned seasoning. Then add the vegetables, garlic and some additional oil if necessary and stir and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes, scraping up any browned bits that were stuck to the pan. Add the curry sauce, stir to combine and reduce heat to very low. Simmer covered for 30-60 minutes. Add water if the sauce becomes too thick. 10 minutes prior to serving, stir in the peas and let cook. Serve over white steamed rice with fresh chopped or whole cilantro.    

*Homemade Coconut Curry Sauce
As noted above, you can purchase pre-made sauce, or you can make a batch of your own. Here is the recipe I follow when I want it to be homemade.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 large clove minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1 1/4 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk, soy sauce, sugar, and salt.

Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add red pepper flakes, garlic, and curry powder and stir for 15 seconds until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring regularly for 5 minutes. Then add the lemon juice, coconut milk, soy sauce, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add cilantro and stir to combine. Pour into a bowl and reserve for recipe.

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