steamed chicken breast with herb butter and coconut basmati rice

DSC03902
I forgot the pickled vegetables.

This dish is made in 2 steps; the rice is cooked in a rice cooker and the chicken is steamed by wrapping each breast in foil then baking the packets in the oven. The original recipe from The Photo Cookbook-Quick and Easy directs steaming packets of chicken over the rice as it cooks. This is tricky, since both rice and chicken cook at different rates depending on the temperature. I thought it would be easier to do them separately. My solution worked, for the chicken and the rice came together wonderfully, with delicate undertones of coconut and herbs. The original recipe called for just a butter-cilantro stuffing. Though I love cilantro, by itself, the taste can be monotonous. The Chinese know this, and often combine it with other herbs such as Chinese celery (kunchai in Thai) and onion. The result is a more complex flavor, however, it lacks that extra bite and tang. The Thai solution is to put in chiles, and I agree with this approach. You want the flavor of chile without burning off your taste buds.

Coconut Rice
2 cups (8 oz each) Basmati rice
1 250ml coconut cream
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse the rice, if directed to do so. Then put all ingredients in a rice cooker pot, press the button and forget it!

Cook’s Note: If desired, dress up the rice with fried garlic and minced scallion.

Steamed Chicken Breasts with Herb Butter
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 fresh Thai chile, seeded and chopped (if more heat is desired, leave in the seeds)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped Chinese celery stems (reserve leaves to garnish a soup otherwise discard, they are bitter)
3 tablespoons onion, minced
8 boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
8×12 inch square pieces of aluminum foil

Preheat the oven 350˚F/185˚C

To stuff the chicken breasts, slit each chicken breast from the thickest part almost to the end of the thinnest part. The pocket should be about 2 1/2 inches deep at the thickest part. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, chile, cilantro, Chinese celery, and onion. Stuff each chicken breast with a generous spoonful of the herb mixture. Sprinkle top and bottom of the breast all over with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the stuffed chicken breast in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, bring to edges together and fold to seal. Fold and seal each end. Place on a baking tray and repeat with the other chicken breasts.

Place the baking tray in the oven. Do four at a time or at the most, six. Bake about 15-18 minutes. Pierce the thickest part of one chicken packet with an instant read thermometer. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165˚F. If not, bake an additional 3-5 minutes.

Spoon cooked coconut basmati rice on a plate and place one cooked chicken breast on top; pour reserved juices from the packet on top. Serve with Pickled Vegetables, which as I said,  I forgot.

Pickled Vegetables
1 medium carrot
1 medium cucumber
3 scallions
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons simple syrup

Shred all the vegetables. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and simple syrup. Pour vinegar mixture over the top of the vegetables and toss to combine.

 

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