02 July 2006

A One-Pot Thai Meal and a Chicken Thigh Spiel

Thai Chicken Coconut Curry

When it comes to chicken, I am a thigh girl. You can blindfold me and dangle a chicken breast and a chicken thigh in front of my face and I will naturally gravitate towards the thigh. Yeah. Especially if it still has the skin on it. Then you can’t keep me away.

I know some of you closet thigh girls and thigh boys will never admit to your overwhelming cravings for dark meat, but when one of your dining companions helps himself to the last thigh on the platter before passing you the pile of dry chicken breast, you silently weep and reprimand yourself for not having the courage to swipe that succulent treasure from your neighbor's plate while he is helping himself to the last serving of something else on the table.

Thigh meat is so flavorful and tender, and almost impossible to overcook. Oh, I suppose it is fattier than white meat, but if I am going to publicly identify myself as a thigh girl then I cannot have qualms about the nutritional intake of my chicken meat.

If you are worried about the extra calories, you can always remove the skin and mail it to me in an envelope and I will eat it because I love it. BUT WAIT! Don’t take the skin off until after the thighs are cooked. Even if you are not going to eat the skin, you should still cook the thighs with the skin on, because the meat stays moist underneath the skin. Then, when the chicken is cooked, you have my permission to take the skin off.

Looking for a satisfying, high-maintenance Thai recipe that brings out the best characteristics of chicken thigh meat by braising it slowly in super-flavorful broth over low heat? Look no further! After experimenting for years, trying to emulate a chicken coconut curry from a neighborhood Thai restaurant, I have finally succeeded. It took forever. I am happy now.

Thai Chicken Coconut Curry (with lots of vegetables)
(serves 6 to 8)
(the leftovers will freeze well if you don’t have 5 friends)

10 chicken thighs, bone-in and with skin (you can use skinless/boneless thighs but I warn you the meat will not be as tender)
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
2 tbs. green curry paste (can be found in the international aisle of most grocery stores...you can always make your own curry paste but this is easier and still tasty)
1 tbs. curry powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp. fish sauce (don't skip this essential Thai ingredient, no matter how badly it smells!)
6-8 cups chicken stock
1-2 cans coconut milk
1 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
1 potato, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
2 cups frozen peas
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 handful cilantro and slivered red onions, garnish

Salt and pepper chicken thighs. Let them sit so the seasoning sinks in and the meat is not too cold from the refrigerator.
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil to medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or a large saucepan. When oil is hot, place thighs skin side down in one layer. Do not be tempted to move the chicken pieces around or you will not achieve the crispy skin that will later lock in moisture and keep the meat juicy.
After 5-6 minutes, the chicken skin should be golden-brown and crispy. Using tongs, flip the chicken pieces over and cook until the other side is also golden-brown. The meat will still be uncooked in the middle. Remove the chicken pieces and set aside (the lid of the Dutch oven works perfectly for the setting aside of the chicken pieces, so then you don’t have to dirty a plate unnecessarily).

Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in the same Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, until they are soft. Add the garlic. Stir occasionally. After a minute or two, add the curry paste, the curry powder, and the cumin and stir for one minute so the flavors can blend. Add the fish sauce and stir for fifteen seconds. Fish sauce smells real bad and real good at the same time.

Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, and pour in enough chicken stock and coconut milk so that the chicken thighs are barely covered by liquid. You may have stock or coconut milk that goes unused. If you do not have enough stock or coconut milk to cover the meat, use water.

Cover the Dutch oven and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the thighs are no longer pink in the middle. This could take thirty minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chicken pieces.

Remove the chicken pieces (again) and set aside to cool. Wheee, this is fun!
Increase the heat to high let the braising liquid thicken for about ten minutes.

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin. Discard the skin (don’t mail it to me in an envelope like I requested before because I only love chicken skin when it’s crispy, and this braised skin will be soggy).
Using two forks or your fingers, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. There is enough succulent thigh meat written into the recipe that you can put some in your mouth and snack while you shred (SWYS).

Add the chicken pieces back into the cooking liquid and reduce heat to medium-low.
Add the garbanzo beans and the cubed potatoes and cook for ten minutes.
Add the frozen peas and cook until thawed.
Remove from heat and stir in the tomatoes.
Garnish with cilantro leaves and slivers of red onion.

I didn’t realize how much work goes into this dish until I typed it all out, but please don’t be scared away. After all, it’s a one-pot meal!
And don't neglect garnish because you are tired of cooking and just ready to eat...I understand the temptation to leave out the garnish. But even if you are only cooking for yourself, take the extra minute and please garnish, you deserve it!

thigh meat....mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm


Julie said...

I'm also a big chicken thigh fan --especially for braises. And chicken thighs braised in coconut milk? Yum! What a great one dish meal.

Shoshanna said...

That sounds really yummy, but I am mostly too LM to take on stuff like that. Sauvie Island will undoubtedly have some sort of berries when you go - maybe marionberries? There are lots of different types of berries that happen one after the other all summer, it seems. Have fun!

keiko said...

Hi Erielle - thank you for visiting my site, you have a beautiful site with lovely recipes and photos. This curry looks wonderful, and of course I'm a big fan of thigh too...

Erielle said...

keiko, julie ~ hooray for fellow chicken thigh fans!

Shoshanna~ Thanks for the info on berries in Oregon. Mmmmm...marionberries.

Alanna said...

Chicken thighs are higher in calories and fat, but not even close enough to obsess over. So it's too bad that for so little gain and so much loss in flavor, the common wisdom gives thighs such a bad rap. For a serving (1/4 pound of the actual meat, raw, so this means with bones in, you'd need to buy more weight to achieve this) chicken breasts are 125 calories, 1 gram of fat, chicken thighs are 135 calories, 4 grams of fat (1 saturated). Nice post, the dish sounds yummy!

Ian said...

This was yummy.

I added juice from one lime, a tablesoon of brown sugar for the sweet-sour taste you often get in Thai food.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic! I also added some sweet (splenda...don't hate). Made an awesome meal for 2 with a few lunches upcoming!

Anonymous said...

I love this recipe, I also add sugar and skip the tomatoes. This was great for me as a jumping off recipe, once I got the hang of this I was more confident to use curry and coconut milk. Excellent recipe if you have a little time, I made it for Easter a few years ago!