"The final color will depend on what kind of chiles you use."
I love big holiday meals as much as the next guy—pass the mashed potatoes and macoroni and cheese please!—but that's just not the way I usually eat during a normal week. My wife and I honestly go through spice and citrus withdrawal when we head home to visit our families. There is something about the balance of chiles and citrus that sets off some brain receptor that calms my soul.
For our first meal back, I whipped up this quick and fiery Indian curry from Food & Wine just to set everything right with the world. With heat from both dried and fresh chiles, the spicy dish is appropriately hot while also being layered and complex. I initially wondered if the coconut milk would make the dish too heavy, but thankfully there is just enough lemon juice added at the end to cut through the thick sauce.
The final color will depend on what kind of chiles you use. While the original recipe calls for some small fresh red chiles—which would have colored the dish a dark red—all I could find at the last minute were some serranos which made the final color a muted green (but the flavor was right).
- 4 fresh red chiles, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
- 3 dried red chiles, stemmed and seeded
- 1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, hard outer layers removed, and white parts thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 small shallots, half of them chopped, the other half thinly sliced
- 1/2 tablespoon water
- 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon of Canola oil
- 2 whole chicken legs, split into legs and thighs
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Toss the fresh chiles, dried chiles, lemongrass, garlic, the chopped shallots, and the water into a food processor and blend until it is a paste.
Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and then place in the skillet. Cook for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they get nicely browned on both sides. Turn heat to medium and remove the chicken pieces.
Dump the paste into the skillet. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all the water has evaporated. Pour in the coconut milk, stir well, and then return the chicken to the skillet. Cover the skillet, turn heat to medium-low, and cook until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes.
Pour the rest of the oil into a small skillet. Turn the heat to medium and add the sliced shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are golden brown. This should take about 10 minutes. Remove the shallots and drain on some paper towels.
Remove the chicken from the skillet. Divide the chicken between a few plates. Add the lemon to the sauce, stir well, and then spoon the sauce over the chicken pieces and sprinkle with the fried shallots. Season with salt and pepper to taste.