cooking in a “new” old kitchen: coconut-ginger chicken

We moved. Uptown. To an apartment in a pre-war building with a unique shotgun layout.

The new kitchen is bigger. Three-dimensional, actually. I’m rusty at cooking in a kitchen that has three walls. By comparison, the Teeny Tiny Kitchen was a wall. Here, with the reorganization of the cupboards, I have to think–now, where did I put the…? As I figure out this new layout, I’ve started trying out new recipes again, like this one.

This recipe for coconut-ginger chicken came from this week’s New York Times Sunday magazine. The chicken came out too bland for my taste, even though I added a tablespoon of garlic to the original recipe. The veggie dishes I made up with what I had on hand–which wasn’t too hard to do, actually, if you abide by the basic rule of stir-fry. Prepare Everything For Cooking. That’s my mis en place by the way, in the small picture beneath the stir-fried vegetables on the left.

Click to play this Smilebox collage
Create your own collage - Powered by Smilebox
Personalize your own collage

Coconut-Ginger Chicken

  • In a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast ¼ cup unsweetened coconut, about 10 minutes until golden brown. Stir occasionally. Set aside in a small plate and do not clean the pan.

Cook’s note: I used flaked coconut but I wonder if shredded coconut with larger strips wouldn’t work as well. The flaked coconut actually came out quite well in appearance, a pale golden brown that adhered to the top of the chicken like bread crumbs.

  • Add ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk, ½ cup water, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, and 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put the chicken in the pan. When the liquid boils, lower heat to simmer; cover and cook chicken for 10-15 minutes or until tender and just cooked through. On an instant read thermometer, the temperature of the thickest part of the chicken should read 155˚F. Test the chicken after 10 minutes then cook for 3-5 additional minutes if not up to temperature.
  • Transfer chicken to a plate and keep warm.
  • Turn heat to high and boil the mixture until it is reduced by half; it should be fairly thick. Lower heat and return the chicken to the pan to reheat and coat with sauce.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with reserved toasted coconut and chopped fresh cilantro and scallion, if desired.

Padma’s Bali Baked Fish with Coconut Green Beans

Padma's Bali Baked Fish with Coconut Green Beans

Want something spicy and flavorful? I never would have thought to add coconut to these green beans but it does counter the heat from the chilies and adds a flaky texture that’s quite a surprise outside a dessert. The Bali fish recipe itself is easy to make and cooks up in less than 30 minutes. In fact, I added a garlic-spinach sauté to the combination and it was delicious. These two recipes, Bali Baked Fish and Coconut Green Beans, both come from Padma Lakshmi via Glamour magazine.

Bali Baked Fish
2 pounds red snapper fillets (I used tilapia)
salt and pepper
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon ginger root, sliced into rounds
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 tablespoons water
fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (I used chopped fresh cilantro and scallions)

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray cooking spray in a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.
Arrange the fillets in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In the work bowl of a food processor, add the onion, garlic, ginger root, tamarind paste, sesame oil, cumin, and 1 tablespoon water. Process. If the mixture is too thick, add another tablespoon water. Process until the mixture is puréed.

Pour mixture over the fish fillets. Turn to coat. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Squeeze on fresh lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle mint on top or cilantro and scallion if using. Serve with Coconut Green Beans and Garlic-Spinach Sauté.

Coconut Green Beans
2 tablespoons canola oil (I used cooking spray)
1 teaspoon mustard seed
2 tablespoons cashews
4 dried red chilies
1 1/2 pounds green beans, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
Salt

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the mustard seeds. When the seeds start to crackle, add cashews and chilies. Once the cashews are toasted, add green beans and stir. Cover and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add coconut and salt. Cook another 8 to 10 minutes while stirring. When green beans are cooked through but crisp-tender, remove from heat.

[My variation: Instead of sautéing the green beans, I blanched them for 3 minutes in boiling water then rinsed them in cold water to stop the cooking process. This makes the beans tender as well as sets a deep green color. I returned them to the skillet to re-heat with the cashew mixture then added the coconut and salt. I cooked the green bean mixture for another 2-3 minutes and it was done.]

Garlic-Spinach Sauté
3-6 oz. fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper

To make this low calorie, I used chicken stock instead of oil. Heat about 3 tablespoons chicken stock in a large skillet on high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and toss to cook. Add more stock, if desired. Season to taste with salt and pepper.