Coconut milk and lemongrass go hand in hand, much like peanut butter and chocolate. Well, perhaps not quite the same, but the duo do make a great combination. Coconut milk is a creamy or fatty milk and the citrus floral characteristics of lemongrass help to lighten the heaviness of the coconut milk. Lemon juice also adds a nice acidity to the dish to help balance out the fat from the coconut milk and chicken.
The one thing I learned very quickly with this recipe is to make lots of sauce! Some of my guests even went so far as to say that they could care less about the chicken, just have enough sauce to pour over the jasmine rice. Come to think of it, this recipe could easily be used as a base for a great Thai chicken coconut soup (Tom Kha Gai).
Thai Coconut Chicken with Lemongrass
- 2 chicken breasts with skin, about 1.5 pounds
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2+1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 2 tsp. ginger, minced
- 1 can coconut milk (13 ounces)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 star anise, whole
- 1 tsp. fish sauce
- 1 stalk lemongrass, green tops removed, chopped into 2-inch pieces and lightly smashed
- 1/2 large lemon, cut into pieces
- 2 dried Thai (bird’s eye) chilies, whole
- Corn starch
- 1 1/2 cups greens (torn spinach or chopped baby bok choy)
- Chopped cilantro, to garnish
- 1 green onion, to garnish
- Preheat oven to 375° F. While the oven is preheating, season both sides of the chicken breasts with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a cast iron Dutch oven over medium heat. Place the chicken breasts skin side down and cook for 5-7 minutes, until the skin is crispy. Flip the breasts over and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside. Drain the fat from the Dutch oven.
- Melt a tablespoon of butter in the pot, add the garlic and minced ginger. Cook, stirring frequently until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up and add the coconut milk, cinnamon stick, star anise, lemongrass, lemon, fish sauce and dried chilies. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook uncovered for 60-75 minutes. Properly cooked chicken should read 165° F with a meat thermometer.
- Return the pot to the stove top and remove the chicken breasts and set aside. With a slotted spoon, remove and discard the lemons, lemongrass, cinnamon stick, star anise and Thai chilies. On medium heat, thicken the sauce with a slurry of corn starch and water (mix equal parts corn starch and cold water first, before adding to the heated sauce). You can add more coconut milk or water for extra sauce. Finally, add the spinach to the sauce and cook until wilted, about 30 seconds.
- Serve the chicken on a bed of jasmine rice, spoon the sauce over top. Garnish the chicken with thinly sliced scallions and cilantro leaves.