Here is yet another old Bon Appetit recipe that I’ve had for years and just got around to making. The truth is that I used to have a subscription (before getting annoyed at all of the ridiculous recipes) and would tear out the few likely recipes and let them pile up and be forgotten. Well, I found that pile and am now making the ones that look the best.
This one was kind of a surprise because after actually reading through the recipe, I learned that it’s really like a rendang. That should tell you that after the coconut milk is cooked down, you’ll be left with a paste containing all that concentrated flavor. The outcome is outstanding.
I don’t have any special tips for this, except be sure to cook it low and slow. And use boneless chicken thighs, for heaven’s sake, though the recipe calls for legs and thighs. Chicken bones = disgusting. I know, I know, everyone says “but whole pieces add more flavor!” Fair enough, but chicken bones suck. Period.
What you’ll need:
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1t crushed red pepper flakes
- 1t ground turmeric
- 1T vegetable oil
- 4 chicken legs, drumsticks and thighs separated
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 4 lime leaves (optional)
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 4 cardamom pods, cracked
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 15-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk (or coconut cream)
- 1t coconut sugar or light brown sugar
- 0.25 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
- Chopped cilantro and chives (for serving)–I didn’t have any on hand. It works well without them.
What to do:
Remove the tough outer layers from lemongrass. Finely grate bottom third of 1 stalk and set it aside. Discard the rest of the stalk. Trim and discard the top-third of the remaining stalk, pound it down its length with the handle-end of a knife so you can tie it in a knot, which you should now do. Pounding also helps release its flavor when cooking in the coconut milk.
In a food processor, pulse the grated lemongrass with the shallot, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, turmeric, and 2T water, adding a splash or two of water if needed, until a paste forms. This is exactly the step used for beef rendang.
Heat oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down (if you’re unwisely using whole legs and thighs), until the skin is lightly browned and crisp, 8–10 minutes. If using skinless chicken, just brown it slightly, but make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. When browned, transfer to a plate.
Cook the spice paste in same frypan, stirring until very fragrant (about 5 minutes). The paste will begin to darken slightly as the water in the paste evaporates and the paste begins to fry in the fat left behind from the chicken.
Add the lime leaves (if using), cinnamon stick, cardamom, star anise, coconut milk, coconut sugar, and the knotted lemongrass to the frypan. Bring to a simmer and add the browned chicken. Lower the heat to a low simmer, and cook, turning the pieces occasionally and scraping the bottom of the frypan often, until chicken is tender and the coconut milk has broken down—about 1.5 hours. At this point, there will be a smooth, oily paste from the coconut milk—highly concentrated in flavor from the spices and herbs.
Before the chicken is done, toast the shredded coconut in a small, dry skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.
While still hot, arrange the chicken on a platter and spoon any braising liquid/paste over it. Top with cilantro, chives and toasted coconut.