Coconut milk makes butter-braised chicken

Christophe kimball

AP – Not all coconut milk is created equal. Canned coconut milk – both regular and light – is made from finely ground coconut flesh that is recombined with water for a uniform, gooey texture that can easily overwhelm other ingredients. This is one of the reasons why in Colombia they make theirs, and we found out on Milk Street that it was a lot easier than it looks.

In this recipe from our book Milk Street Tuesday Nights, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we use a quick homemade coconut milk to braise tasty chicken thighs.

The milk comes together in a blender by mixing unsweetened grated coconut with hot water.

We then filter the mixture, pressing on the solids to extract a milk that is lighter in flavor and body. The process only takes a few minutes and results in a light, flavorful coconut milk that works wonderfully.

Colombian cooks use milk as the base for a coarse, bright yellow sauce topped with powdered broth and a packet of heavy annatto sazón. We substitute the easier-to-find turmeric and soy sauce to reproduce the same flavor.

The tomato paste adds depth and the fresh cherry tomatoes – mixed with fresh lime juice – brighten up the chicken. The fresh, buttery flavor of coconut milk enhances rather than dominates other flavors for a succulent-textured dish with a floral scent.
We liked this with coconut rice, but the plain rice is good too.

Colombian coconut braised chicken. PHOTO: AP

– One and a half cups of unsweetened grated coconut
– Two tablespoons of grape seeds or other neutral oil
– A teaspoon of ground turmeric
– One medium yellow onion, finely chopped
– Eight medium garlic cloves, chopped
– A tablespoon of tomato paste
– One and a half teaspoon of ground allspice
– A tablespoon of soy sauce
– Kosher salt
– Two pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
– A tablespoon of lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
– A pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into quarters

In a blender, combine the coconut and two cups of lukewarm water. Let stand until the coconut begins to soften, about a minute. Blend on high power until creamy, one to two minutes.

Pass through a fine mesh colander set over a large measuring cup or medium bowl, pressing down on the solids; you should have a cup and a half of filtered coconut milk. Discard the solids; set the coconut milk aside.

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat oil until sparkling. Stir in the turmeric and cook until fragrant and the oil turns yellow, about 30 seconds. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about three minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and allspice until well combined, then stir in the coconut milk, soy sauce and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, nestle chicken in an even layer in liquid, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until chicken is no longer pink when cut, 18 to 22 minutes, turning pieces halfway through cooking.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Bring liquid to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and reduced by about half, about 12 minutes.

Pour in the accumulated chicken juice and simmer for another minute. Off the heat, stir in the lime juice and tomatoes. Taste and season with salt, then return the chicken to the pot, turning it to coat. Cook until heated through, two to three minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with lime wedges.

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