A “quick braise” is an oxymoron. In the classic sense, braising is a cooking technique that relies upon a small amount of cooking liquid and a low and slow cooking process to break down collagen and connective tissue in meats. While it is not often a labor-intensive process, it does take time — not ideal for weeknight cooking.
But if you allow for oxymorons in your kitchen, you can apply most of the traditional steps for preparing a braise — browning meat, adding a small amount of flavorful cooking liquid and cooking, covered, until tender — you can achieve a similar dish that is still just as delicious.
For this quick-braised chicken dish, I like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs because they can turn fork-tender after cooking for just 15 minutes. The braising liquid is a potent, umami-rich combination of garlic, coconut milk and soy sauce. To amplify the coconut flavor, I brown the chicken thighs in unrefined coconut oil, and I save time by browning just one side of the thighs. (Much of the goal of browning is to build flavor on both the surface of the meat and the bottom of the pan; you don’t need to brown both sides of the meat to accomplish this.) Once the chicken is browned and garlic is softened, you only need to cover the skillet and let the mixture “braise” in coconut milk and soy sauce for 10 minutes or so.
A note on the soy sauce: This dish is best when prepared with Chinese dark soy sauce instead of the lighter Japanese-style soy sauce sold at most American grocery stores. The color and umami notes will be much richer. You can find dark soy sauce at most Asian markets or online.
Quick-Braised Coconut Chicken
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