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Chicken Curry

Delicious Chicken Curry with peas and peppers.

Coconut Milk, peanut butter and curry paste make the sauce.

Yes please!

This is a recipe that I unabashedly stole from my friend Jen in Minneapolis. Remember Jen of the Squash Apple Bisque fame? Well, the girl can seriously cook.

This is a great recipe for several reasons — #1 it’s quick, #2 it’s easy, #3 it cooks in one pot (except for the rice which gets it’s own pot), #4 it’s delicious, #5 it’s totally adaptable. I’ll offer you some variations as we go along.

Here’s what you need:

Chicken (I have 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves), Coconut Milk, Peanut Butter (the extra chunky is REALLY good in this dish but use whatever you have on hand), Red Bell Pepper, Onion, Garlic, Fresh Ginger Root, Frozen Peas, Curry Paste or Powder, Olive Oil, Salt & Pepper. (Rice for serving not shown.)

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I usually serve this curry on a bed of white or brown rice. If you’re serving rice, be sure to start it now so it will be done when the curry is done. Need help making rice? Go here for my rant on easy rice cooking.

Chop up a big onion by cutting it in half, making vertical slices across the top of the onion and cutting across those slices to make small pieces or diced onions.

Chop a Red Bell Pepper into small pieces.

Smash 2-3 cloves of garlic with the back of the knife to remove the peel. Chop the garlic into very tiny pieces.

Grab a hunk of fresh ginger root and cut off a piece about 1 inch long. You’ll find fresh ginger in the fresh produce section of the store near the peppers and green onions. It is a brown rooty looking thing with lots of little knobs and fingers. It’s totally okay to break off a part of the ginger in the store if they only have really big pieces. Don’t feel that you have to buy a giant hunk of ginger when you only need a small piece.

Carefully cut away the brown skin and slice the small piece of ginger into tiny thin strips. Cut across those strips to mince or make very small bits of ginger. You can also grate the ginger on a microplane or box grater with small holes.

If you find the taste of ginger too strong, simply peel it and toss it into the pot whole. However,  remember to fish it out before you serve your curry. No one wants to bite into a giant piece of ginger when they are expecting chicken.

Helpful hint:  If you’re going the route of the whole piece of ginger, spear it with a toothpick so that you can easily find it when you need to fish it out of the pot. You’d be surprised how much a hunk of ginger looks like a hunk of chicken when they’re covered in delicious sauce.

Mince or grate your ginger, and you won’t have to worry about any of that.

Heat 2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute the onion and red pepper over medium high heat until tender but not browned – about 5 minutes.

While the onions and peppers cook, cut the boneless, skinless chicken breasts into small, bite-sized cubes.

Remember that you, your knife, and your cutting board now have the dreaded raw chicken cooties. Be sure to wash up!

After the onions and peppers have had about a 5 minute head start, add the chicken, garlic and ginger to the pot.

Stir it around to get everyone acquainted and then add 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk.

You will most likely find coconut milk in the Asian section of your store. You can use either regular or light coconut milk. The regular makes a luxurious sauce that is pretty hard to beat. The light works just fine if you’re trying to be a little more calorie conscious.

If you’re using the light coconut milk, just be aware that your sauce might separate slightly when it gets hot. It will be perfectly fine to eat. It just might not look as pretty as the full fat sauce.

Let’s talk curry!

The spice sold as Curry in the store is actually a blend of many different spices including cumin, turmeric, fennel and various peppers. Curry comes in paste and also powdered forms. It also comes in colors – red, yellow, green or special blends like Masaman Curry. Each curry is a little different in flavor and also in spiciness.

I would encourage you to try several different kinds of curry and see what you like. ALSO, until you know how spicy your particular curry paste or powder is, you will want to add it VERY GRADUALLY to your dish. There’s no going back once you’ve put too much curry in.

For this particular Chicken Curry, I prefer Masaman Curry or Yellow Curry paste. To be honest, my regular grocery store doesn’t sell these. However, there are many great Asian markets near my house (and I live in total Florida Suburbia) and I have always been able to find curry paste at one of them.

If you haven’t shopped at a good Asian market, you haven’t lived. They’re great! Don’t be afraid if you don’t speak Chinese or Thai or whatever language is on the cans. If you turn them around, you’ll usually find English somewhere on the label. Also,  I GUARANTEE that if you can’t find the curry, a very helpful person can show you to the right section. As a bonus incentive — my Asian market has wonderful, fresh produce MUCH CHEAPER than my regular grocery store and even has huge tanks of live fish in the back. Pretty cool stuff.

Okay, back to the curry at hand. The Masaman Curry is fairly mild, so I add a heaping Tablespoon or so to my curry.

Remember, if you are unsure about the spiciness of your curry paste, just put in a little bit now. You can taste it after the chicken has cooked and the flavors have developed and always add more.

You can store the unused portion of your curry paste in a zipper bag in the freezer. It will keep there practically forever.

The high oil content in the paste keeps it from freezing hard so you never have to thaw it out. Just grab the bag from the freezer when you want to add curry to something.

Bring your pot of chicken curry to a boil and then turn it down to simmer. Put a lid on and cook it for about 20 minutes to thoroughly cook the chicken pieces.

After 20 minutes, taste the sauce and see if you’d like to add more curry. Now is also a good time to add some salt and pepper to taste.

Toss in about 1 cup of frozen peas.

Add a couple of big spoonfuls of peanut butter. I would say about 1/3 of a cup.

The peanut butter really helps bring the sauce all together. I especially like to use the Extra Chunky peanut butter because it adds little bits of peanut to the sauce.

Stir the sauce all together and let it cook on LOW for a few minutes for the peas to heat through.

Serve with rice so you have something in the bowl to catch all that awesome coconut curry sauce!

VARIATIONS ON A THEME OF CHICKEN CURRY:

Some other great options for this dish are —

Substitute a couple of big handfuls of fresh spinach for the peas.

Have carrots? Slice them on a diagonal and toss them in.

Vegetarian? Skip the chicken and add potatoes and apples for a more traditional Masaman Curry. Add some Tofu if that’s your thing.

Use your imagination. Sweet Potatoes? Why not? Kale, okay!

Make some curry today.

Here’s the recipe:

Chicken Curry

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6 Responses to “Chicken Curry”

  1. Roz says:

    Love, love, love curry, and this recipe sounds great. Best tip I ever got from Rachel Ray: peel a fresh hunk of ginger root, cut it into smaller pieces, and freeze it. It will keep almost indefinitely, and it is very easy to grate once it has been frozen.

  2. alison says:

    I can’t WAIT to try this! I just printed out the recipe for me, and a copy for my office mate. It looks fabulous!

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