basil chicken in coconut curry sauce

So, I believe I have mentioned several times (like here) how much my husband loves "spicy flakes" (the affectionate term we have given to crushed red pepper) and flaming-hot foods in general. This means that he loves nuclear Asian foods, like fresh Japanese wasabi (his soy sauce mixture is a deep green color and nearly smoking when he's done concocting his ratio) and stir fries, and Indian cuisine. When we visit our local Thai restaurant, he orders a seven on a scale of one to five and then he asks for red-hot chilies packed in oil on the side. We've even had the chef come out and check on him half way through the meal - partly out of sick curiosity and partly to make sure he was still breathing. For Christmas, we got three separate spice packs of all sizzling seasonings.

And then he married me. The medium salsa, the oh-my-lips-are-burning from mild wings, the level-two-Thai-food girl.

Now, don't get me wrong, I like the flavor that comes with warmish foods, but I also I like to  be able to taste other things going on in a dish. To me, heat should add a little something in the background, not overwhelm food. Which is exactly what this dish did. It was flavorful and interesting, while still providing a noticeable heat. Good stuff. And, it gave him the chance to use his spicy seasonings from Christmas. No matter what your preferred heat level, this one's a win.

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce
(from Epicurious)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (buyer beware: this bottle was almost $8 at Publix!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (a kick-ass superfood!)
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs (you can use breasts, but the thighs are more flavorful)
  • 1 red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • Lime wedges
  • Hot cooked Jasmine rice
  • Red pepper flakes
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, ground coriander, cumin, ground cloves, cinnamon, ground cardamom, black pepper, chili powder and turmeric. Set aside.
  2. Rinse chicken, pat dry. Cut into one-inch pieces. Put into a bowl and sprinkle the spice mix over all the pieces. Coat well and let sit for two hours in the refrigerator.
  3.  In a large skillet heat 1 tbsp oil on medium high heat. Add the onions and jalapeños and cook for three minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute more. Remove the onions, peppers and garlic from the pan and put into a medium sized bowl. Set aside. Use the same pan for the next step.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oil to the skillet and heat on medium high heat. Add one half of the chicken pieces, spreading them out on the pan so they are not crowded. Brown for a few minutes on each side. When the chicken pieces are cooked through, and no pink remains, remove from pan, add to the bowl with the onions. Cook the second batch of chicken pieces the same way. Remove from pan, add to bowl with onions.
  5. Add the coconut milk, minus a couple tablespoons, to the skillet and whisk to incorporate the bits left on the bottom of the pan. In a small bowl, mix the remaining coconut with the corn starch to help it dissolve. Add the dissolved corn starch mixture back to the skillet with the coconut milk. Cook on medium heat and stir till thick and bubbly. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce. Add chicken mixture and ginger. Cook two to four minutes more to cook through.   
  6. Serve over rice with lime wedges and top with basil.

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