Tonight was one of those nights. I got home from work and asked Ed, “Have you thought about dinner yet?” “I would like to eat it.” “Yeah, me too.” Both of us were feeling pretty apathetic about the whole thing and neither of us had a clue what we wanted to eat. Being accustomed to eating out all the time, we have these nights pretty regularly now that we’re trying to cook at home more often.
I decided I would make something with chicken and rice, since we had both readily available. But what kind of chicken and rice? “Chicken and rice” sounds so utterly boring. I searched the internet and came up with a million recipes involving cream of mushroom soup. No thanks. Even if that was something I stocked my pantry with — and it’s not — Ed would never in a million years be able to eat it. Finally, I happened across this recipe — a breath of fresh air! I decided to spice it up a bit, leaving out the things I didn’t have (pimiento, saffron, green peppers) and adding a bunch of things I did (coconut milk, raisins, red peppers, and a bunch of spices). The result was hearty and delicious — salty, sweet, and subtly spicy: an updated version of the classic cream of mushroom soup recipes. Perfect fare for those freezing nights when all you want to do is eat some comfort food and curl up with a good book.
This dish is also dairy and gluten free, and can easily be made vegan by substituting cubes of tofu for the chicken. And did I mention it was incredibly easy to make? Just leave a bit of time for it to bake; it needs to be in the oven about an hour and a half.
Coconut Chicken & Rice
Yield: 4 large servings, plus extra rice
Time to cook: 1 1/2 hours, plus a few minutes of prep
4 1/2-lb pieces of chicken (I used 2 bone-in thighs and two boneless skinless breasts) (replace with 1 pound of firm tofu, cut into 1cm cubes for vegan)
2 cups short grain brown rice
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 small cloves garlic, smashed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz frozen green peas (half of a 16-oz. package)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4 cup raisins (I used thompson flame raisins)
1 13.5oz can of coconut milk
1 1/4 cups water (stock would be tasty too, I bet)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat a cast-iron dutch oven (or similar heavy, oven-safe pan) over med-high and add olive oil. Sautee pepper and onion until onions are starting to get translucent and soft.
- Turn off the heat and add all other ingredients except chicken (or tofu). Stir well, till everything is mixed. The veggies will float but that’s okay.
- If using chicken, dunk chicken pieces into the mixture till submerged, then bring them back out and rest them on top of it (chicken will be submerged about halfway). Sprinkle a little more kosher salt over the tops of the chicken pieces. If using tofu, just mix the cubes of tofu in with the rest of the ingredients. Cover the pot and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove cover and cook for 5 more minutes. That’s it!