Chicken Drumsticks with Coconut Rice Recipe: Step by step method
Teaching the world about West African cuisine came organically by Chef Pierre Thiam, cookbook author and co-founder of New York City’s Restaurant Teranga, a West African fast food restaurant. Says Nashat Senegal Thiam.
Senegalese Thibaut Genard served as the starting point for this one-pot recipe with chicken and rice, adapted from Thiam’s cookbook. Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from Source to Bowl, where he sought to share Senegalese food as he knew it back home. Red palm oil, harvested from the pulp of palm fruits, gives the dish a floral flavor and bright red color (it’s rich in beta-carotene, as well as vitamins A and E). Red palm oil, a staple in West African kitchens, is “hard even to replace,” Thiam says. “It is the oil that was used traditionally in West Africa before all others.”
As Yewande Komolafe writes in Heated, this vibrant red palm oil should not be confused with the refined, bleached, and deodorized palm oil that appears in products from mayonnaise to makeup. The latter is produced on a large scale, and comes with a slew of concerns, including deforestation in Southeast Asia. By comparison, Thiam explains of red palm oil, “The traditional way of doing it (is) to go into the forest and cut (the fruit) from the palm tree and process it naturally to produce palm oil.” In the US, Thiam recommends getting red palm oil from the Nutiva brand, which follows sustainability principles that include not harming animal habitats or contributing to deforestation.
Cooking more West African food in the United States allowed Thiam to begin to see connections with Southern and Caribbean cuisines. As he did, he realized that he too was in touch with his past and his ancestors. “I became a guardian of my own foods,” he says. Thiam expanded that mission even further by founding Yolélé, a company that aims to open up markets for sustainably grown food from small farmers in West Africa. Without access to growing consumer bases, Thiam explains, these subsistence farmers live in poverty, and their crops are at risk of disappearing. “That’s really what inspires me to this ambassador role,” he says. “I was opening markets, I was telling the story in a way that has never been told—our own story.”
This fall, Thiam will release his latest book, Simply West Africa, where his aim is to show West African techniques and dishes that are flexible and adaptable to any cuisine. Until then, chicken thighs with palm rice and red coconut were poised to be a weeknight dinner staple.
Red palm chicken thighs – coconut rice
8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total)
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into thin slices
2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
2 cups of jasmine rice
1½ cup full-fat coconut milk
1½ cups of chicken broth
2 tablespoons red palm oil or vegetable oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, or more to taste
Sauteed vegetables to serve
Step 1: Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. In a large cast-iron pot or Dutch oven with a heavy lid, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When hot, working in batches if necessary, marinate the chicken thighs thoroughly, skin side first, letting the skin turn a nice golden color (about 5 minutes) before flipping once and browning the other side. Remove from pot and set aside on a plate.
Step 2: Discard all chicken fat except for 1 Tbsp. Add the onion and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until softened and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rice and stir until the rice is well covered. Add the coconut milk and chicken broth and stir well. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and add red palm oil. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Step 3: Return the chicken thighs and any juices to the pot, place them on top of the rice, and cover. Simmer 25 to 30 minutes, until all liquid is absorbed, rice is tender, and chicken is cooked through.
The fourth step: When ready to serve, squeeze lime juice all over chicken and rice and top generously with cilantro. Served with a side of greens.
Reprinted with permission from Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from Source to Bowl By Pierre Thiam with Jennifer Sit, Copyright © Lake Isle Press 2015. Photos by Evan Sung, Copyright © 2015.