Saturday, March 27, 2010

Macadamia Nut Crusted Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers, Watercress and Coconut Rice

This is one I had at a restaurant years ago, and loved it so much I recreated it at home. This time I added two things: my own basil oil, and coconut cubes (basically coconut jello ... the coconut milk with gelatin). The basil part is a must, the coconut gelatin squares are entirely optional ;)

  • 2 bone-in skin-on chicken breasts
  • 1 red pepper
  • 4 cups of watercress
  • 1-1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 bunch of basil, thoroughly washed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing the chicken
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, crushed (not ground to a pulp, though - a few chunks is nice)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 egg white (optional - I used it to coat the nuts so they made a paste to stick to the chicken better, but you can go without ... I've done it both ways)

There are a few things you can make ahead: the basil oil and the roasted red peppers. You certainly don't have to, though. Here are those two steps first:
  1. Place basil leaves in boiling, salted water. Blanch for 30 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon and squeeze out as much water as possible. Put into blender with olive oil. Blend until the basil is fully incorporated. You can choose to put this through a sieve to remove some of the little chunks, but I didn't. Totally up to you how clear you want the oil to be. This can be refrigerated for up to a few days.
  2. Put your oven on broil (500 degrees). Put the pepper on the top rack under the broiler and let the skin burn, turning to burn on all sides. Remove from oven and put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap (this sweats the pepper to easily remove the skin). Once it's cool enough to handle, remove the skin and core/seeds. Cut into thin strips. You can make this up to 2 days ahead - keep refrigerated.

Okay, now for the other parts ...
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Heat a large oven-proof skillet on high heat with about 2 tbsp of olive oil until hot but not smoking. Put chicken in skillet, skin side down. Leave it there until you can easily turn it over and the skin is a deep golden brown (but not burnt!). If you can't easily turn the chicken over, it's not ready to be turned. Once you turn it over, let it cook on the bone side for about 2-3 more minutes. Then, put the skillet in the oven to cook the chicken through (about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts). About 8 minutes before they're done, take them out of the oven and top with the macadamia nuts (which can be previously coated in egg white or not). Put back in the oven to finish cooking. If when the chicken is done you find the nuts are not a little golden, turn your broiler on and toast them up that way.
  2. Put the jasmine rice and coconut milk in a saucepan. You'll need double the liquid to the amount of rice (3 cups in this case), so if you don't have enough coconut milk, add water. It doesn't really matter if you use all coconut milk or a blend, but just make sure if you are using water that there's at least 1/2 of the liquid as the coconut milk. Bring to a boil (uncovered). Once it boils, turn the heat to low, put a lid on it, and simmer until cooked through (about 10-15 minutes). The rice will be a bit gluey, but super tasty. I add in some salt & butter to finish it, but totally your call to add this or not.
  3. Put the watercress in a saucepan or skillet with a touch of olive oil. Heat on medium until wilted. At this point, you want to make sure your basil oil and red peppers are out. Heat the red peppers in the microwave or on medium-low heat in a skillet.
  4. To plate, put the rice on the dish, top with watercress and then roasted red pepper. Top with the chicken and drizzle the plate in basil oil. Enjoy!!

p.s. - if you want to make the coconut cubes, just get plain gelatin and follow the package instructions. I think I used 1/2 cup of coconut milk and 1/2tsp of gelatin, and left it overnight to firm up. I then cut it into cubes in the tray and lifted it out with a small spatula. Don't take them out of the fridge too early or they'll melt :)

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