You’ll love this dish for the easy advance prep and great flavor, but the true hallmark of the recipe－thanks to one special ingredient－is the exceptionally tender meat.
I’m predicting you will enjoy this dish for the easy advance prep and great flavor, but the tender, juicy meat might just knocks your socks off!
I was introduced to this soul-warming chicken a little over a year ago, and it now makes regular appearances in our house.
A short list of flavorings create a lovely, Thai-inspired flavor, but the real workhorse in this recipe is coconut milk. Aided by the acid in the lime juice, an extended soak in this creamy liquid helps break down the proteins in and add moisture to the meat. The result is some of the most tender chicken ever. (And I try not to use hyperbole lightly!)
I should mention that my husband isn’t a big fan of coconut milk, but he adores this chicken. Even though the chicken steeps in the milk, the flavor of coconut is not pervasive. In fact, he enjoyed this dish many, many times with no apparent realization that this ingredient even played a role. And when he finally learned my trick, he didn’t love it any less!
A variety of chicken pieces may be used, but my family has taken a shining to chicken quarters — and calls dibs on any leftovers! (P.S. We like it with a combination of simply roasted vegetables or Roasted Curried Cauliflower.)
A few more thoughts…
How many of us open a full can of coconut milk, only to use a mere half cup or so? Or do you scoop a tablespoon of curry paste out of the jar, after which the remains sit in the refrigerator, untouched, for weeks on end? This recipe will ensure those ingredients don’t go to waste.
Lightly adapted from Michelle Tam and Henry Fong’s Ready or Not Paleo-inspired cookbook, one direction in the original recipe is to use the “juice of 1 lime.” Many recipes call for similar measurements with regard to lemons and limes, which can result in anywhere from a few teaspoons to a few tablespoons of juice being used. It depends on the size of the fruit and how juicy the fruit is (there is much variation), as well as how one juices the fruit (with a squeeze of the hand or an actual juicer).
In this marinade recipe, which is ultimately drained, a reasonable variance won’t make a huge difference. But in a delicate sauce that flavors a meal, an extra tablespoon can be overpowering. Not enough can leave it lackluster. Accordingly, I always specify a precise measurement. As a rule of thumb, however, if a recipe doesn’t stipulate, plan on the following:
The juice of 1 lime = 2 tablespoons
The juice of 1 lemon = 3 tablespoons
When in doubt, start with less. You can always add more. And if you ever end up with a result that’s too tangy to enjoy, try adding a bit of honey or sweetener of choice to tame the tang.
Coconut milk tenderizes and, mixed with the remaining ingredients, supplies a mild but delightful flavor. If you’re cooking for people who are iffy about coconut, you need not worry. It’s quite possible that nobody will guess that coconut milk was used in the marinade. As an added bonus, the dish is easy to prep and pop in the oven when ready to eat!
- 1 cup (240ml) canned, unsweetened coconut milk (full fat or light)
- 3 tablespoons (45g) Thai curry paste** (may use red, green or yellow; I often buy Thai Kitchen’s little glass jar)
- 2 teaspoons (10ml) fish sauce (Red Boat is a very good option)
- Zest PLUS 2 tablespoons (30ml) juice, from 1 lime
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 chicken quarters (or 8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on)***
- Optional garnishes: additional lime zest; chopped fresh cilantro; a drizzle of sriracha or chili garlic sauce
In a large measuring cup or small bowl, combine the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, lime zest and juice and salt. Taste and adjust with more salt or curry paste if desired. The marinade should be salty, rich and very flavorful. (Marinade will be drained off later.)
Place the chicken in a zip-top bag, and pour in the marinade. Toss to coat the chicken thoroughly, and marinate it in the fridge overnight or at least 8 hours if possible.
When you’re ready to cook the chicken, remove the chicken from the fridge and preheat the oven to 425°F. Drain the marinade from the chicken and discard. (You don’t want the chicken to be too drippy when it goes in the oven.)
Option 1 (for slightly crisper skin): Place a wire rack that has been sprayed or greased on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet and arrange the chicken on the rack skin-side down. Bake the chicken for 40-45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F, flipping the thighs skin side up at the halfway point.
Option 2: Skip the rack and place the chicken right on the foil (do spray or grease the foil.) Proceed as in Option 1, but if you want crisper skin, carefully drain off the liquid that cooks out of the chicken at the halfway point. Then, after 40 minutes, place the chicken on the top rack and broil (I do it on low) for about 2 minutes, watching carefully and turning for even browning, or until the skin is golden and lightly crisped.
For juiciest meat, allow the chicken to rest 5-10 minutes before cutting. For added flavor, grate a little extra lime zest on top.
*If you’re a family of more than four (or simply want leftovers), feel free to squeeze an extra chicken quarter or two in the bag. As long as the pieces are coated in marinade, all will turn out well. (With this amount of marinade, I’ve gone as high as 6 quarters and 4¼ pounds of chicken pieces. In this case I used a 2-gallon zip-top bag.)
**The curry paste I use is not especially spicy. If using a variety that is “hot,” you may wish to start with 2 tablespoons and then taste the marinade, adding the final tablespoon if desired.
***You could certainly use this marinade with boneless, skinless chicken breasts – and report back if you do! Just make sure to reduce the cook time. Depending on the size of the breasts, this will likely take 15-25 minutes. For juiciest, most tender meat, the internal temperature when taken with a quick-read thermometer should register 165℉.