Canning, Main dishes, Recipes

Spicy Braised Chicken Thighs with Coconut Milk and Tomato Apple Chutney

Sometimes, I just like to play in the kitchen.  This dish is a result of some play after long abstinence following shoulder surgery.  It turned out so well, I just had to share it.

Spicy Braised Chicken Thighs with Coconut Milk and Tomato Apple Chutney

1 can light coconut milk

6-8 chicken thighs

1 tablespoon refined coconut oil*

Spice Mixture

Blend together the following:

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon curry powder**

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon celery salt

1/8 teaspoon African pepper*** (cayenne is fine)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of refined (so it won’t burn) coconut oil in a Dutch oven. Rinse chicken thighs and pat dry. Sprinkle and rub the spice mixture liberally over both sides of the chicken (you may have some left over). Place chicken skin side down in Dutch oven and brown skin until very crisp, but don’t burn the spices. Turn thighs and brown other side. Quite a bit of fat will render from the skin.

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Remove chicken from pan, pour off fat. (Lower fat version: remove skin from chicken thighs before browning in coconut oil. There should be no need then to pour off fat from pan, since the coconut oil is healthy.) Pour 1 can of light coconut milk into Dutch oven, heat to boiling, stirring up the spices from the bottom of the pan. Place chicken back into pan, cover with lid, and braise in 375 degree oven for 75-90 minutes, or until chicken is tender enough to pull away from the bone with a fork.

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Remove chicken from pan. Stir 1-2 tablespoons of flour (I use brown rice flour) into pan juices. Whisk over medium heat until boiling. Boil and stir one minute to thicken sauce. Serve sauce over chicken thighs.

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As you can see from the pictures, I only had 3 chicken thighs, and there was enough sauce for several more thighs.  I wish I’d had more!  I served this with red quinoa instead of the traditional rice, with a good dollop of the tomato-apple chutney I made last fall on the side.

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We also had kale with Canadian bacon and onion, one of Dennis’s favorite vegetable dishes.  Dennis was over the moon! He’s been getting pretty tired of his own cooking since my shoulder surgery in early December.

Notes: *Use refined coconut oil to brown the chicken because you’ll use a relatively high heat, and unrefined coconut oil burns too easily.  You can of course use vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, or any other fat you like.  I just like the health benefits of cooking with coconut oil whenever I can.  **If you have a good curry powder or paste, you probably don’t need all the extra ingredients I added to the spice mix, but boy, it sure was good! I just used an inexpensive, all-purpose curry powder from the supermarket. ***My African pepper was given to me by my Nigerian co-mother-in-law, Theresa. She buys the hot red peppers in the market in Kaduna, cooks them, dries them in the sun, and then grinds them to powder. It is hot, but with great flavor. I love it, and I use it in everything. Cayenne is an acceptable alternative. It adds just a little heat, and of course, you can add more of any flavor you particularly like.

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Canning, condiment

Tomato-Apple Chutney

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I found this recipe some years ago in my old Ball Blue Book from 1981. I made it back then and haven’t made it since because it requires having apples and tomatoes at the same time. Yes, I could buy either apples or tomatoes, but I like using what’s in season in my garden. This year, I have lots of both apples and tomatoes at the same time, so I decided to make a batch of this slightly sweet but tangy condiment. I’ve played with the recipe to spice it up a bit, but I’ve been careful to maintain the same ratio of non-acid foods to acid foods and vinegar to maintain a proper balance for water-bath canning.

Tomato-Apple Chutney

2 ½ quarts peeled, cored, chopped, ripe tomatoes (about 15 large)* (see note below about peeling tomatoes)

1 quart cored, peeled, chopped apples (6-8 medium apples—use tart pie apples for more flavor)

2 cups chopped summer squash (tender-skinned yellow squash or zucchini) or cucumber, unpeeled, large seeds removed

1 ½ cups chopped onion

1 ½ cups chopped peppers (*mix of sweet red and hot peppers, see note below)

1 cup seedless raisins

1 clove garlic, crushed and minced

3 cups brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon kosher or pickling salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity

Combine all ingredients in large kettle or pot. Bring to boil and cook uncovered, slowly, until thick, about 2 hours (longer if you have very juicy heirloom tomatoes, like I did). Stir frequently to prevent sticking. (Or use my oven cook method, which takes longer but avoids the need to stir as often—bake uncovered at 300 degrees until as thick as salsa; return to boiling on stove top before filling jars.) Pour boiling into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch head space. Cap and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath, adjusting time if necessary according to altitude chart.

Notes: I really hate dunking tomatoes in boiling water and peeling them. It uses a lot of water, and there is an easier way which nets you more flavor and a nice by-product. I’ve talked about this method before in my post on Charred Salsa. Instead of scalding the tomatoes, cut them in half, cut out the cores, put them on a foil-covered cookie sheet, and stick them under the broiler until the skin blackens and loosens from the fruit.

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It’s easy then to remove the skins and set them aside on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet. The skins go into the oven at 200 degrees for a couple of hours to dry, and then you can grind them to powder in a blender. The picture below was the first batch of dried tomato skin powder I ever made, a couple of years ago.

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See the following posts for ways to use dried tomato skin powder:  Dried Tomato Skin Rub and Pulled PorkBraised and Barbecued Pork Spareribs, Spicy Sausage and Lentil Soup, Bear and Mushroom Fricassee with Creamy Polenta.  (Don’t let the bear scare you–you can use other meats, and there is a list of possibles on the post.)  Dried tomato skin powder can also be used to punch up the flavor of sauces made with fall’s box-ripened tomatoes.  I’ll be sharing my recipe for red tomato sauce (for Italian dishes) made with box-ripened tomatoes in a future post, so save those tomato skins!

Now, back to the chutney. After the peel has been removed from the tomatoes, you can give them a quick buzz in the food processor to chop them (they pretty much puree, but that’s okay). This method of broiling and processing the tomatoes greatly speeds up the chutney-making.

Peppers: I use a mix of sweet red peppers and hot peppers. I use about 1 ¼ cups of sweet red bell peppers, and ¼ cup of hot peppers. If you want a spicier chutney, reduce the amount of sweet red peppers in proportion to the amount of hot peppers you add.  (For instance, use 1 cup chopped sweet red peppers and 1/2 cup chopped hot peppers.)  DO NOT EXCEED THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF 1 1/2 CUPS OF PEPPERS. If you do, your chutney may not be safe to can in a water-bath canner. If you want your chutney very spicy, use a hotter pepper, like a habanero, rather than a jalapeno. I used several ripe and green jalapenos and two ripe serrano peppers from my garden, chopped to equal ¼ cup. I seeded the peppers because I did not want the seeds in my chutney, but if you want a hotter product, leave in the seeds and membranes of the hot peppers. This is where much of the capsaican is stored in the pepper.  My chutney carries a nice warmth in the mouth, but it’s not going to make anybody spit it out and say, “That’s way too hot for me!”

It is very important not to exceed the amounts of any non-acid food in a recipe intended for water-bath canning. This includes the onions, squash or cucumbers, and garlic, as well as the peppers. I was very tempted to try using fresh ginger instead of dried ground ginger, but I did not want to inadvertently throw off the acid balance. Better safe than sorry. And it is delicious as is.

Tomato-apple chutney is excellent alongside roast pork, roast chicken or grilled chicken breast, or even a grilled steak. Try it as an appetizer, too, topping cream cheese on a cracker or crispy toast round.

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If you make some tomato-apple chutney, be sure to let me know what you pair with it.

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