Recipe: Coconut Milk Chicken

published Oct 16, 2009
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(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

Since falling in love with Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk recipe, I’ve wanted to try another take on the concept and simmer a whole chicken in coconut milk. How decadent! Yesterday afternoon I had my chance when the weather in New York turned chilly and a friend with a two-week-old baby called hungry.

It was fantastic. Imagine a succulent chicken bathed in a thick, sweet sauce with herbal citrus notes, alongside gorgeous little pink potatoes. Served with short-grain brown rice and some roasted root vegetables, it should feed the new family for a few days.

This recipe is highly adaptable: you could use olive or other vegetable oil instead of sesame, substitute basil or parsley for the cilantro, skip the lemongrass altogether if you can’t find any, and tweak the amount of garlic to taste. For a spicy curry version, add a tablespoon of ground cumin and a pinch or two of chili powder. For the potatoes, which are optional of course, I used some beautiful Rose Finn heirloom potatoes, but you could use any low-starch potato. Larger potatoes like Yukon Golds should be cut into bite-sized chunks.

Chicken in Coconut Milk
serves 4

One 3-3.5 pound whole chicken
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 pound fingerling potatoes
2 cans (13 – 15oz) regular or light coconut milk
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
10 whole garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons chopped lemon grass stems
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cinnamon stick

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper at a rate of about 1 tablespoon salt per pound and 1 tablespoon pepper per three pounds. Heat the butter and sesame oil in a pot that will fit the chicken snugly, like a Dutch oven, and set the chicken in the hot oil. Cook, turning the chicken to get an even golden color on all sides, about 5 minutes total.

Remove from the heat, put the chicken on a plate, and dispose of the fat left in the pot. Return the chicken to the pot with the rest of the ingredients, and cook in the preheated oven, basting with the cooking juices every 20 minutes, for 1 – 1.5 hours. It is done when the meat pulls away from the bone without much effort and the potatoes are tender when pricked with the end of a paring knife.

To serve, pull the meat off the bones and divide with potatoes between plates or serve on a platter. Spoon over a hefty helping of the milky sauce. Mind the cinnamon stick.

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