Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tomato-coconut braised chicken and couscous

There haven't been a lot of recipes here lately because I've been busy and everything we eat has been of the throw-it-together variety. And it's hard to share those meals, because I don't have recipes and I'm lucky if I can even remember what I did. And even if I do remember, they're frequently decent but uninteresting and not really worthy of sharing.

But every once in a while I get lucky. Braised chicken thighs in a dish that ended up being vaguely Indian, because I had a sweet potato to use up and I decided to add some coconut milk, so garam masala seemed like the logical spice pairing.

tomato-coconut chicken
{tomato-coconut braised chicken and couscous}

This is good. Good enough that I'd like to try to write down the gist of the recipe so that I could replicate it sometime. It starts, as most good things do, with a pile of sliced onions and some spice (garam masala, in this case). And then you braise some chicken, which is a thoroughly reliable cooking method for those of us who are just not so good with meat and quail at the thought of having to figure out exact cooking times. And at the very end, you stir in some couscous, to absorb the liquid and give the meal some heft.

The instructions for this dish make it seem more complicated than it is, but that's just because I gave you a lot of detail. And remember - you can adjust as needed. Swap veggies or spices or liquids. Add more liquid if you need it, add more couscous if you'd like. But I'll probably make it exactly this way again. 

Tomato Coconut Braised Chicken and Couscous (serves 4, probably with some leftover couscous)

3 - 4 yellow onions, sliced
A glug of olive oil, for the pan
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 carrots, chopped (just because I had them - you could leave them out)
1 - 2 tablespoons garam masala (one of my favorite spice blends, I get mine premade from the Indian market)
Large pinch of flaky salt (or whatever, in whatever amount you like)
3/4 cup red wine (totally optional - I just needed to use up the tail end of a bottle)
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz), not drained
4 - 6 chicken thighs (I used bone in, but skinned them)
Extra liquid, as needed (I think I used an additional cup of beef broth, just because it was open, but you could use water or more tomatoes, or whatever)
1 large sweet potato, chunked (also optional, but it was sooo good in this dish)
1 can light coconut milk (14 oz)
3/4 cup whole wheat couscous

:: You want to use a large saucepan with a lid. I have a large straight sided saute pan (similar to this one, but in stainless steel), and it works beautifully here. 

:: Saute the onions in the olive oil over medium heat, until they're soft and starting to brown and caramelize (maybe 10 - 15 minutes).

:: Meanwhile, chop your carrots and press your garlic. Get out your garam masala, open your can of tomatoes. Take the skin off your chicken if you'd like.

:: When the onions are ready, toss in your carrots and garlic. Saute for another few minutes, then add the garam masala and stir for a minute, to get the spice incorporated.

:: Pour in the red wine (if using) and your can of tomatoes. Stir it up, add a pinch of salt. Place the chicken thighs in the pan.

:: If the chicken isn't covered by liquid (not swimming in liquid, just a very thin layer over the top), then add a bit of extra liquid to bring it up. I used broth, but you could use water if you'd like, or more tomatoes.

:: Let it come to a simmer, cover the pan and lower the heat. It'll need to cook for at least 45 minutes to get that nice falling off the bone tenderness.

:: After about 15 minutes, toss in the chunks of sweet potato. It takes a little less time to cook, so it doesn't need to be in there the whole time. Stir, turn the chicken over if you'd like, replace the lid, walk away.

:: Check it at 45 minutes to see if the chicken is tender and the sweet potatoes are done.

:: If ready, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside. Stir in the coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer and let it cook for a couple minutes, without the lid.

:: Stir in the couscous, turn off the heat, replace the lid. Give it at least five minutes to absorb. You aren't going to have light fluffy couscous - it just hydrates and thickens up the sauce and it's amazing. If you feel like you have way too much liquid, you can add a bit more couscous.

:: Add the chicken back to the pan, serve. Eat alone, or with naan.

Also very excellent cold out of the fridge the next day. I had way more couscous than chicken (only used 3 thighs) so I ate the leftover couscous on it's own. If you're vegetarian, you could still do this but leave out the chicken and maybe add more potatoes and I think it would be great.

P.S. - There are some nice variations in the comments! You guys are amazing. This is probably my favorite kind of cooking (start from a base and wing it) so it's great to see everyone chiming in with their own spin on it. 


  1. Wow. This sounds amazing. I am going to try this next week!

  2. That sounds great! I have been looking for simple recipe to give me an excuse to buy some garam masala and I think this is it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Sliced onions, a veritable pile! A glug of olive oil! Perfectly auspicious beginnings. And a finish with coconut milk AND couscous! This recipe contains so many of my favorites that it will be the very next thing I make (as in this weekend, because there are still leftovers in the fridge.) I love to follow your adventures in cooking. You are my go-to gonzo gourmet.
    BTW: What garam masala do you use (i.e., is there a brand? Probably written in Arabic or Hindi, hmmmm.)

  4. So I haven't even read the post yet. I literally signed on to Blogger and saw this new post and drooled instantly. I sat at my desk and said slowly...OH...MY...GOD. Naturally the gals that sit next to me gathered around my desk to see. I've finally shoooed (sp?) them away so I can read the post and write down the recipe. Yum yum yum.

  5. Looks hearty and delicious, but healthy too! I look forward to giving this a try :)

  6. Oooh, I have to make this. I have chicken thighs in the freezer and I've had no clue what to do with them. And a can of coconut milk in the pantry that's been begging to be used. Mmmmm, my mouth is watering!

  7. This looks awesome. I have some garam masala waiting to be used - this looks nice for this weekend.

  8. Looks yummy! And it's pretty to look at. Such creativity in these parts!

  9. @ anon - you guessed it! i can't read the brand name on my garam masala because the label is in a different language. sorry! i bought a big jar, because i go through quite a bit of it.

  10. Awesome - I have everything on hand for this (sub. kabocha for sweet potato) - and it sounds deelish.

  11. This is totally my kind of recipe! Coconut!! Yes please.

  12. YUM. I LOVE how inventive you are in the kitchen. Dying to try this. (And ironic how I can't get half those ingredients in our Indian neighborhood! Um, chicken? Not in this Hindu 'hood!)

  13. I was looking for some ideas to use up what I had at home last night and can I just say this was spot.on. I played around with the ingredients I had...cauliflower and red potatoes instead of chicken...and it was sooo delish! Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. I just made this for my roommates and I (but had to modify it for a "college budget"). It was absolutely delicious and so easy to make. Thanks for the recipe! I'll definitely be saving it for the future.

  15. I made this last night! My husband and I really adored this recipe. I used boneless, skinless thighs so it took a lot less time to cook (about 20 minutes, instead of 45). I tossed in a few carrot logs at the end instead of sweet potatoes and a few handfuls of kale. Leftovers for lunch today! Also, I really appreciate your informative but laid-back recipe instructions. Thank you!

  16. 3 Researches REVEAL How Coconut Oil Kills Waist Fat.

    This means that you actually burn fat by eating coconut fats (also coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 researches from big medical magazines are sure to turn the traditional nutrition world around!


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