Tomato and Coconut Chicken
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Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli

Tomato and Coconut Chicken over Spiced Rice Pilaf

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 15 min
  • Active: 35 min
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings





  1. For the rice: Soak the rice in 4 cups of cold water for 30 minutes.
  2. For the chicken: Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet in a single layer. Season all sides of the chicken with salt. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, use a pair of metal tongs to carefully add the pieces, skin-side down, to the oil. Do not crowd the skillet. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the skin is browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown the other side, another 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a clean baking sheet and set aside. 
  3. In the same skillet, add the garlic and onions. Add the red pepper flakes and some salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic and onions turn light brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the coconut milk, tomatoes and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side up in a single layer in the sauce. Pour any juices into the sauce as well. Lower the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Taste for seasoning. Keep warm.
  4. To cook the rice: While the chicken is cooking, heat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  5. On a baking sheet, combine the cumin, fennel, cayenne and cinnamon stick. Lightly toast the spices in the oven, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside. 
  6. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat and add the butter and onion. Season with salt and cook until the onion is translucent but not browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the spices. Drain the rice, reserving the soaking water. Stir in the rice and cook until you hear it crackling, 1 to 2 minutes. Gently stir in the reserved water. Season with salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook until the water has been absorbed and the rice is fluffy, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before “forking” it gently onto plates. Spoon the chicken and sauce over the rice and serve.

Cook’s Note

This is a two-part recipe, so you can make the rice or the chicken and not the other part. The aroma of the spices is so flavorful and the dish is not at all spicy. My mother would make this rice all the time when I was growing up and I could never get enough. The tomatoes from the chicken really pick up the floral notes of the rice.