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Eric Akis: Thai curry gives roast chicken a Southeast Asian flair

The chicken is marinated before roasting for a zesty twist on a Sunday dinner classic.
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Roasted chicken is flavoured with a mixture of red Thai curry paste, citrus, ginger and soy sauce and served with coconut gravy. ERIC AKIS

Roast chicken is one my favourite Sunday dinners. And I’ve prepared it in all sorts of ways, from a simply seasoned bird served with gravy and mashed potatoes, to a French-style one sprinkled with herbes de Provence.

Today, though, I flavoured roast chicken in a Southeast Asian-style way. I did serve it with gravy, but its base is coconut milk.

To prepare the chicken, I first brushed and marinated it with a mixture of red Thai curry paste, citrus juice and zest, ginger and soy sauce. Red Thai curry paste is sold in the Asian foods aisle of grocery stores and is made with such things as red chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass and coriander root. In other words, when blended with the other ingredients I used, it will robustly flavour the chicken, but not be overly spicy, as spiciness of the chili pepper will mellow as the bird roasts.

Once marinated, I roasted the chicken in a shallow roasting pan, ensuring the heat of the oven would directly hit and richly brown the sides of the bird. I also poured a skim of chicken stock into the bottom of the pan. Liquid that will help prevent the marinade that drips into the pan from scorching, and also reduce, concentrate and later flavour the gravy.

To make that gravy, once the chicken was roasted, out of the pan and resting, I skimmed the excess fat from the pan drippings. I then set the pan on the stovetop, added a can of coconut milk, brought it to a simmer and thickened it with cornstarch. The resulting gravy was rich with the taste of concentrated chicken stock and the coconut milk nicely complimented the Thai curry flavoured chicken.

To round out the meal, you could serve the chicken and gravy with jasmine rice and a steamed or stir-fried mix of vegetables.

As noted in past stories on roast chicken, for the best results buy a Vancouver Island-raised bird. When buying it, look for a plump, guaranteed to be very juicy, firm-looking chicken that has almost bright-looking skin that tightly adheres to the body.

You’ll find Island-raised chickens for sale at local farms, farm markets, butcher shops and some grocery stores. In my recipe I used a splendid chicken from Island Farmhouse Poultry. You can find places selling their chicken on their website, farmhousepoultry.ca.

Roast Thai Curry Chicken with Coconut Gravy

Aromatic, juicy, tasty Southeast Asian-style chicken served with rich gravy made with coconut milk. During roasting, parts of the skin should take on a dark, rich, charred-looking hue, which will richly flavour the meat of the bird when you slice and serve it.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus marinating time

Cooking time: 80 to 90 minutes

Makes: four servings

1 (about 3 lb./1.4 kg) whole chicken

2 green onions, cut into 2-inch long pieces

8 thin, skin-on, slices fresh ginger

8 cilantro sprigs with long stems

2 large garlic cloves, halved and sliced

2 Tbsp red Thai curry paste

1 tsp finely grated orange zest

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 tsp finely grated lime zest

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 tsp finely grated ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

• flaked sea or kosher salt, to taste

• chicken stock

1 (400 mL) can coconut milk

2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp cold water

1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

• orange and lime slices and cilantro sprigs, for garnish (optional)

Set chicken in a shallow dish and remove any string tightly binding it, if there is any. (Removing the string some chicken sellers truss their birds with will expose more skin to the heat oven and richly colour and flavour it in those areas. Later in the method you’ll simply tie the legs together.) If they aren’t already, fold and tuck the wings under the body. Set chicken in a shallow dish, breast side up. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the green onion, sliced ginger, eight cilantro sprigs and garlic.

Combine curry paste, juices, zests, grated ginger and soy sauce in a bowl. Brush this mixture all over the chicken, ensuring it reaches deep into the areas between the breasts and legs and tucked parts of each wing. Tie the chicken’s legs together with kitchen string. Cover, refrigerate and let chicken marinate four to eight hours.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Set chicken in a shallow-sided roasting pan or large cast iron skillet. Brush it with the marinade left in the dish, and then season with salt. Pour in enough chicken stock to barely cover the bottom of the pan by 1/8-inch or so.

Roast chicken 50 minutes, and then pour in more stock so the bottom of the pan is barely covered again with it. Baste the chicken with the juices/stock in the pan. Roast chicken 15 minutes more. Baste the chicken with pan juices again, and then roast another 15 to 25 minutes, or until an instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, registers 170 F (77 C; see Note).

When cooked, remove chicken from the pan, set on a plate, tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes.

While the chicken rests, skim any fat from the juices in the roasting pan, and then set over medium heat. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer two minutes, and then whisk in cornstarch/water mixture. Return to a simmer, and simmer one minute more, or until thickened gravy forms. Mix in the chopped cilantro, if using, and then turn heat to low. Mix in a bit of chicken stock, if you find the gravy too thick.

When rested, set the chicken on a cutting board. Mix any juices on the plate the chicken sat on into the gravy. Carve chicken, set on a platter and garnish with orange and lime slices and cilantro sprigs, if using. Pour the gravy into a gravy boat and serve with the chicken.

Note: The Chicken Farmer’s of Canada website, chicken.ca, says to cook whole roast chicken to 180 F (82 C). But I find that roast chicken will reach that temperature when it sits and rest before carving.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.