Cucina Valentina

Cucina Valentina

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Braised Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower Curry and Coconut Rice

I have only recently started dabbling into Indian cuisine, but each time I do I develop a new appreciation for traditional Indian spices and how they perfume the house with their exotic aroma.

For decades the standard boneless breast was my go-to protein. Sure, there are plenty of great dishes to be made with chicken breasts, but once in a while it's only fair to treat one's self to an ever-so-succulent thigh.  Let's even take it a step further - bone in!  

In my world the age old battle between calories and flavor is constantly raging, but for this dish, flavor wins the war.


The more garlic, ginger and lemon zest in this marinade, the better. The measurements listed are only a guideline. I rarely follow recipe measurements precisely (unless baking), but rather use my own judgement.



 The Le Crueset braiser is perfect for this task.


Definitely try to shake off as much marinade as possible before searing the thighs, so you will be able to get a nice brown crust going. Don't worry; it wont go to waste.  You will add it back in before going into the oven.




When it comes to the vegetables, they are totally interchangeable.  I like potatoes, carrots and peas in this curry, but feel free to use whatever you prefer or have on hand.  I have substituted and/or included red peppers, poblanos, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, fennel and corn in the past.



There is something wonderfully comforting about the scent of these spices toasting in a pan. A pinch of coriander and cumin can also be added.



Unless I'm making spaghetti sauce, I rarely use an entire can of tomato paste after opening.  Another great tip I picked up online, scoop the remaining paste into a sandwich baggie, spread to about a quarter inch thickness and freeze. You can then cleanly snap off however much you need next time.


How long to simmer once everything is in the pot is subject to how long it takes your veggies to soften.  Use your own judgement.


Add the frozen peas last so they don't turn to mush. They will thaw in two seconds.




You will know when the thighs are done once the braising liquid has reduced and the meat is almost falling off the bone.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a coconut fanatic.  I love everything coconut, and I mean everything.  My signature scent is coconut cake.  Yes, I wear coconut perfume!  

When cooking with coconut oil, make sure it is unrefined so it has that smooth coconut taste that adds an extra layer of richness to a dish. 


Canned coconut milk does not have enough coconut flavor for me, so I add a splash of coconut extract to the rice, along with a handful of shaved coconut.  It gives a mild, creamy background to the savory vegetables and compliments the bites of sweetness you get from the dried apricots.  And again, the dried fruits are totally interchangeable. You can use whatever you like; cranberries, raisins, currants, pomegranate seeds...

Braised Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower Curry


1/2 C Sicilian lemon infused olive oil
1/2 C Greek yogurt
10 Cloves garlic (crushed)
3 T ginger
3 T lemon juice and zest of half lemon
Salt and Pepper
8 bone-in chicken thighs
2 T coconut oil
1/2 - 3/4 C chicken broth 

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Trim excess fat and skin from thighs and place into marinade, stirring to coat.  Cover and refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350.  Heat coconut oil over medium high heat in a large braising pan.  Remove thighs from bowl, shaking off excess marinade, then sear until golden brown on both sides.  De-glaze pan with chicken broth, spoon leftover marinade over thighs, then cover and bake in oven 30 - 45 minutes until thighs are almost falling off the bone.

 Cauliflower Curry

4 T coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
3 jalapeno peppers (remove seeds for less heat), finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala 
Splash, cream sherry
1 cinnamon stick
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery, chopped
1 potato, cubed
4 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
1/2 C frozen peas
1 can coconut milk
1 C chicken broth
1 t honey
Kosher salt

Make the curry: Heat the coconut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, about 8 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, garlic, ginger and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, a few minutes until sizzling. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it dissolves. Add the curry powder, garam masala and cinnamon stick. Cook, stirring, until the spices darken, about 1 minute. De-glaze with a splash of sherry. Add the can of coconut milk and 1 C chicken  broth, the cauliflower and potato. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the cauliflower is almost tender, at least ten minutes.

Add the quartered tomatoes to the pot and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the tomatoes soften and the liquid begins to reduce.  Add honey and peas and simmer until the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked through. Season with salt. Remove the cinnamon stick.


Coconut Rice

! C Basmati Rice
1 C chicken broth
1/2 C coconut milk
splash coconut extract
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
1/4 C dried apricots, chopped 
1 T cilantro, chopped
1 T scallions, chopped 
1/4 C shaved coconut
pomegranate seeds 
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T coconut oil

Heat coconut oil in large saucepan.  Add vegetables, salt, pepper and saute until soft and translucent.  Add rice, chicken broth, coconut milk, coconut extract, shaved coconut and dried apricots.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until rice is done (follow directions on rice).  Add cilantro and scallions then fluff with fork.   

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