Our piece about Jamie Oliver's Chicken in Milk got me thinking about other possibilities for cooking a whole chicken in milk and I decided to try the sweet pungent flavors of coconut milk and lemongrass. Served over rice, it's a one-bowl meal complete with wilted spinach, and soupy coconut broth.
Seasoning it a day ahead isn't essential, but adds to the depth of flavor, however as far as flavor goes, you're well covered since you're cooking the whole bird in coconut milk and aromatics. You'll need a covered pot that will hold the chicken snug, such as a Dutch Oven.
Chicken in Coconut Milk
1 whole roasting chicken (3-4 pounds)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole pieces star anise
1 bunch cilantro, trimmed
1 large lemon, cut into eighths
Lemongrass, white part, 5" chopped into 1/4" pieces
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 16-ounce can coconut milk
3 cups spinach leaves
2 green onions, chopped into 1/4" pieces
Rinse and dry the chicken. Sprinkle it liberally with salt and pepper. Put the chicken, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours, or, if you're going to cook it right away, set it aside while you prepare remaining ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Melt the butter over medium heat, then add the oil. Put in the chicken, breast side up, and let it sizzle for about 30 seconds. Carefully flip the bird and crisp the other side for another 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and pour off the the fat in the pot.
Put your chicken back in the pot with the cinnamon stick, star anise, a handful chopped cilantro stems (about 1/2 cup), lemon, lemongrass, garlic and coconut milk and cook in the preheated oven for 60-90 minutes (depending on size), basting the sauce over the top of the bird every 20 minutes or so. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 165° F.
Remove chicken and put it on a plate. Pull out and discard the cinnamon stick and star anise. Put the sauce back on the stovetop, add the spinach and stir over medium until just wilted, about 10 seconds.
Carve the chicken and serve each piece over rice with sauce spooned over the top. Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro leaves.
(Image credits: Sara Kate Gillingham)