Comfort food used to be your mom’s mashed potatoes, chicken soup with noodles, or maybe even macaroni and cheese from a box. It’s something traditional, familiar. It’s effortless – perhaps brought to you on the couch while you’re sick. Prepare to reboot all of your expections, because once you try this coconut-chicken curry, you will forever turn to it in times of need. Times when you need dinner ready in half an hour. Times when you need to impress a date. And of course, times when you need to indulge in something creamy and delicious that comes together fast.
This dish was inspired by traditional Sri Lankan chicken curry. We take it to the next level by making it creamy instead of dry, because extra curry sauce is a gift from the kitchen gods. You’ll start with a whole onion, sliced thin and sauteed into smoky sweet ribbons. Then you’ll add a burst of flavor in the form of aromatic ginger and garlic, coupled with garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne enough to tingle but not burn. A kaffir lime leaf, if you have one, is a great tidbit to throw into the skillet. Sliced chicken will brown in the spice mixture before simmering until cooked through. At the end, coconut milk brings everything together. The richness is tempered a bit by the addition of tomatoes, which soften enough to release their juices.
Some enjoy the dish as is, almost like a soup, but it’s also wonderful served with steamed jasmine rice.
The Coconut-Chicken Curry
Serves 2-4, depending on appetite
1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
2 onions, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1-inch piece of ginger, minced or grated
1 tbsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne
1 kaffir lime leaf (optional)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 cup water
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 tomatoes, quartered with seeds removed
2 tsp salt, or to taste
In a large skillet preheated over medium-high heat, sauté onion in vegetable oil or ghee. Stir frequently until brown and . Add garlic, ginger, spices, and kaffir lime leaf, stirring constantly until aromatic – thirty seconds, minimum. Add chicken and stir to blend. When the chicken pieces are beginning to brown, add one cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat down to low and simmer until chicken is cooked through – no more than five minutes.
Add coconut milk, tomatoes, and salt. Simmer for about five more minutes. The texture will be that of a rich broth, studded with chicken and laced through with caramelized onions.
Salt to taste. Serve with white rice, if desired.