Why I don't cook everything in coconut milk is beyond me. It adds a rich flavor, creamy texture, and a sweetness that is perfectly at home in savory dishes. This particular one-pot recipe, made with tender chicken thighs, fresh, crunchy snow peas, and lightly spiced rice cooked in coconut milk is not from any particular tradition, but it sure is a tasty way to make a quick, weeknight meal.
Why this recipe works:
- Searing chicken thighs in a pot helps build up aromatic fond, which in turn flavors the whole dish as it simmers under a single lid.
- Just a pinch of spices (cumin and cayenne pepper) help to tame the sweetness of coconut milk. Adding some chicken broth to the mix also helps maintain the dish's savory profile.
Note: You'll want to stir the coconut milk in the can to loosen it up before adding it to the pan. Make sure to watch your heat carefully as the bottom of the rice will burn if it's too hot. Stir the rice occasionally as it cooks to see if the rice if sticking.
- 1 ½ pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (4 to 6 thighs)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch of cayenne powder
- 1 ½ cups basmati, Jasmine, or long-grain rice
- 1 (13.5)-oz can coconut milk (see note)
- 1/3 cup homemade or store-bought low sodium chicken stock or water
- 2 cups snow peas
- 2 tablespoons fresh juice and 1 tablespoon zest from 2 limes
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Season the chicken well with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in Dutch oven or a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until lightly smoking. Add the chicken, skin-side down. Cook without moving until browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Flip and cook until second side is browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat and return pot to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cumin and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until fragrant and lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock (or water), stir together, then nestle the chicken back on top, skin side up. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, then cover and cook until the chicken and rice are almost done, 15 to 20 minutes, longer, checking that rice isn't burning occasionally (see note). Add snow peas, stir, and cook until rice and chicken are fully cooked and snow peas are bright green, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Stir in the lime juice and zest, season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.