This recipe is a total cheat. It's the same base as the Beef Braised in Coconut Milk I posted awhile back, with a whole chicken in the pot instead of a beef roast. I've been meaning to do this for ages - even last week I picked up a chicken and coconut milk. The store put the chicken in a small brown bag to protect against leakage...and also put a big bottle of olive oil in a similar brown bag to protect the glass...perhaps you can see where this is going. Yeah, I put the olive oil in the fridge and left the chicken on the counter.
We had salmon instead (thank you freezer). I've since tried to screw my head back on straight, which has been seriously tough for me since returning from Costa Rica. My thoughts are still on the beach...
Anyhow, back at it today. I bought a chicken this morning, came home, and immediately browned it in coconut oil - no messing around. In 15 minutes the whole thing was in the oven, and two hours later (perhaps even longer given a ridiculously long bath on my part), oh my goodness. I don't want to sound obscene...but this chicken is obscene. The skin continued to brown, but everything else sort of collapsed and fell apart. I have never, ever, ever had chicken this tender. Silky. The sauce is as thick and sexy as a hot summer evening, intensely chicken-y, perfectly melded with the coconut milk and subtle heat of Thai curry paste.
Beach? What beach?
My plan was to simmer vegetables in the coconut sauce while I pulled the chicken apart (as I wrote it below). Uh, we never got that far. In the name of instant gratification, we kind of attacked the chicken straight away. I put together a quick bowlful for a pic, with zero effort (other than a scattering of scallions), which was supremely lazy but also gives you a sense of how pretty it is on its own.
A pretty girl without makeup, as it were.
Chicken Braised in Coconut Milk
1 Tbsp. coconut oil (or other oil)
1 4-5 lb. roasting chicken
1 small onion, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
zest of 1 lime
2 Tbsp. green or red Thai curry paste (available in the Asian foods section of most grocery stores)
1 can coconut milk (do not use the carton-version of coconut milk, which is actually quite watery; go for a can of rich, thick coconut milk)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce (or more to taste)
1 bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp.)
2 scallions, chopped
1/4 c. thinly sliced fresh basil
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan and when it is hot, brown the chicken thoroughly, on all sides. Set on a plate.
When the chicken is browned, lower heat to medium, and add onion, garlic, ginger, lime zest, and curry paste and saute for 2-3 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, brown sugar, and fish sauce. Settle chicken into the pan (and any accumulated juices from the plate), baste the chicken with the coconut milk, and cover tightly. Bring to a simmer, then transfer pot to the oven.
Bake for 2-3 hours, or until chicken is browned and very tender. Remove chicken to a cutting board. Set pan over medium heat and when it simmers, stir in bell pepper and simmer uncovered for a few minutes until pepper is tender. Stir in lime juice and taste sauce for seasoning - add more fish sauce for saltiness, more sugar for sweetness, more lime for sourness. Stir in scallions and basil. Meanwhile, pull chicken into bite-sized pieces, discard bones, and add back to the pan. (Note: I love chicken skin, so I included it with the chicken meat. Your choice.) Serve with hot rice, if desired.