Thursday, March 1, 2007

Not So Sweet But Nice 'n Spicy

I admit I was skeptical at first. I'm used to a sweeter arrangement - a little sugar with my spice, if you will. But I suppose that comes from my background. And when it comes to my background, well....I have a confession to make. I never tasted chutney until I was maybe.....oh....35? Something like that. And I thought Major Gray was chutney. I thought the combination of sugar and fruit and spice was the definition of chutney.

So I had this leftover cauliflower dish from my last post a few days ago. You know how that make something with enthusiasm. You are drawn to that recipe because it speaks to you with just the right combination of flavors - a little sweet talk, a subtle hint of sauciness, and just a dash of spice to get your attention. So why make just enough for 2 meals? I bring my lunch to work, and if I've had a success in the kitchen the night before, well, why not go back for more?

But after a couple of days, you want to shake it up a bit. Eat something different. An egg salad sandwich or a salad begins to sound gourmet. So that's what I did to give my taste buds a "cleansing". I polished off all the different lettuces and what-not from the salad bins, and added a fresh avocado to perk it up, the way a bright lipstick perks up a winter-weary face.
(She opens the refrigerator and looks.) Container with the leftover cauliflower - still there. And the event was coming up over at Kalyn's Kitchen. Can't use the cauliflower dish - it's already been posted.

But there was that coconut.....

I had gone to for those avocados, you see. While I was there I saw these beautiful young coconuts, brown part of the husks removed, tops taken off, wrapped in plastic and the liquid still in them. They reminded me of my last trip, which was to Vietnam. While there, we drank the coconut juice right out of the coconut, and then scrapped the insides with our spoons to eat the sweet flesh. I decided to relive that experience with one of these wrapped-in-plastic versions of the coconut. Ahhhhhh.....The juice was delicious! Just as I had remembered it. I carefully wrapped the coconut back up and put it in the fridge. Note to self: look up a recipe that calls for fresh coconut.

Enter . Unfortunately, I signed up for this site so long ago I cannot remember my username or password. This means I can't save any recipes to my recipe box, nor can I access the ones I stored in there. But that's another issue. They did have this recipe for chutney which was part of their "Chicken Curry With Green Apple and Coconut Chutney". How perfect! I had a curried cauliflower dish already made, and a chicken breast in the freezer. I was set. But there was that chutney recipe which didn't call for any sugar, and the apples were Granny Smiths, which are tart. Would it work?

Absolutely!!! The freshness of the cilantro coupled with the almost sweet taste of the apples are a cool backdrop to a shock of heat from the 1 serrano and 1/3 red jalapeno I had. If you like-a-da-spice, you'll love-a-da-chutney!

I'll give you the recipe as it appears in Epicurious, but as you know if you've read any of my previous posts, I'm a tinkerer. So I'll tell you in advance that I didn't have 3/4 C of coconut (it was a young one), and so I pared down just a little on the amount of apples I used. And if you've never baked a coconut before, which I hadn't, let me tell you it makes your house smell fabulous!

I did make the curry, too. Or at least my version of it. I sliced my chicken breast, cooked it in some canola oil in my trusty cast iron dutch oven on the stove, added a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon and ground cumin, splashed in some Yellow Curry sauce and a small handful of whole cloves. I skipped the rest of the dish as directed, but added the leftover cauliflower dish instead and simmered for a few minutes to heat everything. This time, I'm telling everyone at the office that lunch is on me. I don't want any leftovers after tomorrow!


1 fresh coconut
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pound Granny Smith apples
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 large bunch cilantro, stemmed
2 serrano or jalapeño chilies, seeded, stemmed, halved
2 garlic cloves, each cut in half
3/4 teaspoon salt

Chicken Curry

9 large garlic cloves
2 serrano or jalapeño chilies, seeded, stemmed, halved
1 3-inch-long piece fresh ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 medium onions, finely chopped
5 tablespoons plus 1 cup water
1 4-inch-long cinnamon stick, broken in half
5 whole cardamom pods, cracked
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
3 small bay leaves
3 tablespoons ground coriander
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 pound tomatoes, minced
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 3-pound chickens, each cut into 8 pieces, skinned
3 cups white rice, cooked
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For Chutney:

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Pierce the "eyes" of the coconut with ice pick. Drain off liquid. (But do drink it!! - my note.)
Bake coconut until shell begins to crack, about 30 minutes.
Tap coconut shell all over with hammer to remove shell. (The white meat with its brown skin should fall away from shell; if it doesn't, use paring knife to release meat.)
Using paring knife, cut away brown skin, if desired.
Rinse coconut.
Coarsely chop enough coconut in processor to measure 3/4 cup (reserve remaining coconut for another use.)
Heat small skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds; stir until fragrant, about 3 minutes (do not burn). Transfer seeds to plate; cool.
Finely grind seeds in spice grinder or in mortar with pestle.

Core apples; cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place apples in medium bowl. Add lemon juice and toss to coat.

Combine 3/4 cup coconut, cumin, apples and all remaining ingredients in processor. Chop finely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.

For Curry:

With processor running, drop garlic, chilies and ginger down feed tube and process until minced.
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until brown, adding 2 tablespoons water during last minutes of cooking to prevent burning, about 10 minutes.
Add chili mixture and 1 tablespoon water; sauté 3 minutes.
Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and peppercorns; stir 1 minute.
Add 2 tablespoons water, bay leaves, coriander, cumin, cayenne and turmeric; sauté 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and salt; cook until almost all the liquid evaporates, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

Add chicken pieces 1 at a time, turning to coat in tomato mixture. Add 1 cup water. Cover; simmer until chicken is cooked through, turning once, about 40 minutes.
Spoon rice onto plates. Top with chicken and sauce. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with chutney.Makes 8 servings.

I skipped the rice this evening. Didn't miss it!


Kalyn Denny said...

I'm jealous you went to Vietnam. I'd love to go there. This sounds delicious. I haven't ever baked coconut, or even cooked it I don't think, but I bet it does smell great!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I don't remember eating coconuts in Vietnam, but I surely remember it from a visit to Trinidad some years ago. There would be trucks along the side of the road, and signs saying ICE COLD NUTS. I loved it! Coconut chutney is a wonderful condiment!

Toni said...

Kalyn - Vietnam was never on my "map", but after having been there, I can highly recommend it. I had never heard of baking coconuts, either, but I did it because the recipe said so. I'm not sure it made much of a difference in the taste, but it sure made everything smell divine!

Lydia - We drank the liquid from a straw, like the way I photographed it for this post. Also, they had a dessert there made of coconut, coconut milk, sugar and then different things in it - often corn and/or peas. Odd combination at first glance, but delicious!

Love the sign "ICE COLD NUTS"!! LOL!

Anonymous said...

You know - I have never eaten a fresh coconut! Shame on me....

What amazing traveling you have and will be doing! If you need a bag just say the word....:)

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

Hi Toni. This is Sharon (who tried to be funny but just ended up sounding weird in last post). Love your blog and your pix are beautiful. Re coconut, there is a Thai Style Chicken and Rice dish made with coconut milk (find on epicurious) that sounds worth a try. One of my rare attempts at cooking with coconut 40 years ago ended with a culinary disaster. I made East Indian pea soup (Daahl -sp?)which called for straining milk through coconut. In a hurry, I did that and then dumped milk ... and the coconut ... into the soup. It morphed into a coconut pea custard. Heaven forfend and pass the peas(oup) to the dog. Anyway, enjoy your blog. Be well and savor India. Shar

Toni said...

Hi Sharon,
Thanks for stopping by my blog! Amazing what the internet can do, isn't it? (And thanks to your incredibly talented daughter, I've learned a lot about blogging.) I'll check out the Thai recipe on epicurious - thanks!

You should check out my other blog. It's called Second Opinion, and you can find it I'd love to hear what you had to say on that one, too.

I think I WILL savor India. Thanks!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

This dish sounds absolutely delicious! I especially love the addition of the tart Granny Smith in the chutney. And I can't get enough coconut in anything!

Toni said...

Susan - I've been eating it with everything. Even had it with some salmon this evening.

Helene said...

Never thought of cooking a coconut, sounds delicious. :)

Anonymous said...


i like delicious~ i like cooking

welcome to my home:

Stella said...

Who needs rice when there's a great chutney & chicken curry? I so envy you!

Freya said...

Lucky you eating coconuts like that! The whole dish looks wonderful, so fragrant!

Toni said...

Helene - I had never thought of cooking a coconut either. I've ussed coconut milk in lots of recipes, but never knew about any use for the flesh other than just eating it. I don't think that baking it changed much in terms of it's edibility, texture, flavor, so it's worth doing it if for no other reason than having your house smell great!

Yoyo - I clicked on your link and got to your blog. Unfortunately for me, I don't read Chinese. (And I do Chinese medicine!!!) Wish you had an English version, because some of those dishes looked sooooo good!

Valentina - how about if I supply the chicken curry and chutney, and you supply the bread pudding!!

Freya - "Fragrant" is a perfect description of it! Thanks!

Unknown said...

My husband wants to go to Vietnam, and I am anxious to try the food there.

I love your photos, Toni, and the time and effort you put into this post — and the others. Stunning!

The food looks great, too — yup, who needs rice?

Toni said...

Mimi - Vietnam is absolutely fabulous! You'll love the food - Asian food with a French flair.

Thanks for the compliments on the post. I don't know what came over me - a fit of creativity or something. Anyway, I had fun with it.

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