Green Curry Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Nettles, and Toasted Rice

Currying, or spicing, meats, fish, and vegetables has a long history in cooking. There is archaeological evidence found in the Indus Valley of pounded spice blends to flavor foods dating from 2600 bce. Today, curries made with coconut milk are popular along the coastal regions of  India and into Asia and Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand  (see the shrimp curry post of February 13, 2012 for another take on coconut milk curries).

A joy of farmers’ market shopping is coming upon unexpected produce and being inspired by its unfamiliar beauty. Such was the case when I found a basket of young cauliflowers and another beside it brimming with spring nettles.  A coconut milk curry  seemed the perfect way to combine them.  The nettles lend an extra green caste to the sauce, already a vibrant chartreuse from green chili peppers and curry powder. If you don’t find nettles, young spinach, preferably with roots, can substitute.

Fresh Nettles: Handle with tongs until they're cooked, which renders them soft and supple, no harm at all.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter

6 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon chopped shallot

1 tablespoon chopped serrano or jalapeno chili pepper

1 teaspoon hot curry powder

Toasted and ground rice is a specialty of Southeast Asian cooking. White or brown, short- or long grain, it makes an excellent topping when you're looking for a crunchy texture more usually provided by toasted bread crumbs, nuts, or coconut shreds. To make:
Spread a thin layer of rice in a heavy, ungreased skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until golden and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly and grind in a spice grinder or mini food processor until pulverized but not powdered. Use right away or store in a tightly covered glass jar at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups cauliflower florets (about 1/2 medium head)

1 can organic coconut milk (1 1/2 cups)

1 cup chicken broth

2 cups packed nettles

1/4 cup Toasted Rice, for serving (optional, see the sidebar)

1. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and stir fry until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the shallots, chili pepper, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt and stir to mix. Stir in the cauliflower and cook until beginning to wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Stir in the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to maintain a brisk simmer and cook, uncovered, until the chicken and cauliflower are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

4. Stir in the nettles and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with the toasted rice, if using, and serve.

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2 responses to “Green Curry Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Nettles, and Toasted Rice

  1. I’m not familiar with eating nettles. Anything particular about them to bear in mind, and would any somewhat bitter green be a substiture?

    • The only thing to bear in mind about nettles is to handle them without actually touching them, that is, with tongs or rubber gloves, until they’re blanched. Once cooked, they’re not particularly bitter at all. Dandelion (more bitter), watercress, or some such can substitute for that foraged greens taste.

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