Today I bring to you a recipe from Mandy Lee’s site, Lady and Pups. It’s one of my favourite places to procrastinate on the Web, especially when I should be doing more constructive things, like organising my taxes or folding laundry or emailing the landlady. It’s easy to fall under the spell of Mandy’s moody photos and acerbic prose. Her recipes too – as they always sound absurdly good, in that no-holds-barred, debauched, lick-your-fingers-clean kind of way. Take a look at this recipe for hot rice noodles, or the one for this magnificent thing. Couldn’t you see yourself happily staining your face and all your clothes with either of those cradled in your hands?
Of course you can.
But, there is one caveat –
If you’ve ever followed a Mandy Lee recipe, you’ll know that they’re not for the weak. They’re not from the dinner-in-minutes-Rachel-Ray school of cooking; they are from the school of hard knocks.(this is, after all, the woman who convinced me – through those moody photos and that acerbic prose – to make ramen soup from scratch with 30 cloves of peeled garlic). This aggressive caveat isn’t meant to dissuade you; I’m just saying that if you’re looking for an easy, breezy, work-week meal that you can throw together right after the pants come off and the wide-stretch leggings go on, this one’s not for you. In fact, it’s the antithesis of that. Making a Mandy Lee recipe is a commitment. There is usually a long list of ingredients and and even longer list of instructions, generally with bits in FULL CAPS so that you don’t screw anything up.
I just want to be clear about that.
Are you still there?
Good. I’m glad! Because like any worthwhile, long-term commitment, Mandy’s recipes will always reward you in spades. Her recipes might look insane, spanning longer than most newspaper articles. But there is a method to her madness.
Breathe deep and just trust it.
A note on the recipe: below is Mandy’s Turmeric Butter Chicken Rice (with a few small tweaks from me). What’s brilliant about this recipe is that 1) she has you cook the rice in the oven with chicken broth and coconut milk, infusing every grain with luscious, rich flavours; and 2) she has you cook the chicken ABOVE the rice, balanced on a baking rack (I used a metal cookie-cooling rack) over the baking dish. This means that, as the chicken cooks, it’s precious juices and fat drip down into the rice, making it even more delicious. The process itself is a sight to behold – I spent a good minute or so watching the magic happen through the oven door, completely entranced.
A few more liner notes:
1- Mandy Lee has the chicken marinate between 2-6 hours, so keep that in mind time-wise (I didn’t do this, because I’m notoriously bad at following recipes and I missed that piece of instruction. (And it was a Tuesday night. After work. Hahahaha let’s find MORE reasons to make a long day longer!). All said, it worked out fine without marination, but I imagine it would be even better had I followed her advice.)
2- There are three major components here: Consider prepping the chicken and the coconut sauce in advance – the chicken will have time to marinate and the sauce can easily be reheated as soon as you’re ready to use it.
3- Since you’re dealing with raw chicken, it’s best to get all your ingredients and appliances ready before you begin. For instance, not having the skewers ready when you’re done wrangling a raw, buttery chicken is not a pleasant experience. I speak from experience. Have everything ready at your fingertips and I promise that things will go much more smoothly. (This might be another reason why prepping the chicken in advance might be worth it – getting that part out of the way is half the work.)
4 – I re-worked the instructions a little so that it (hopefully) is a little easier to follow.
Ok. Have at it.
SPICY COCONUT SAUCE:
- 1 ½ cup coconut milk (usually 1 can)
- ½ lemongrass stalk, white part only
- 2 small red chilis
- 1 green onion
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (I used this to replace the 2 tsp of yellow mustard in the original recipe, which happens to be the one condiment I never have on hand)
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp (14 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
TURMERIC BUTTER CHICKEN RICE:
- 1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs)
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 ½” ginger, cut into chunks
- 3 small red chilis
- 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 4 Tbsp (57 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 cups jasmine rice
- 1 ½ cup coconut milk (usually 1 can)
- 1 ½ cup chicken stock
- 2 stalks lemongrass, white part only, smashed and cut into segments
- pinch of salt and black pepper to season
MAKE THE SPICY COCONUT SAUCE: In a food-processor, blend everything under “Spicy Coconut Sauce”, except for the butter and fresh cilantro, until puréed. Add the butter, then bring the mixture to a gentle boil, and cook for about 20 mins until reduced by 1/3. Take off the heat and add the fresh chopped cilantro. Set aside until needed.
MAKE THE TURMERIC BUTTER CHICKEN RICE:
Step 1 – prepping the chicken
1) Rinse and clean out the cavity of the chicken, then pat dry and set aside. In a food-processor, purée garlic, ginger, red chilis, fish sauce, ground turmeric, ground coriander and ground black pepper until smooth. Take out about 2 tbsp of this turmeric-mixture and set aside. Then add the butter to the rest of the mixture and run the processor again until evenly incorporated (this is your “turmeric butter”). Reserve 1 tbsp of the turmeric butter for cooking the rice.
2) With the remaining turmeric butter: Gently insert your hands in-between the flesh and skin of the chicken from the neck-opening at the top of the breasts, separating the two layers to make space for stuffing the turmeric butter. Work slowly and gently so you do not puncture the skin, and make sure you do it all the way to the back-thighs that are attached to the back-bone, evenly distributing under the skin of the whole chicken.
3) Place ½ of the smashed lemongrass stalk inside the cavity, then with toothpicks, sew/seal the skins around BOTH the opening of the cavity and the neck. Now, rub the reserved turmeric-mixture WITHOUT BUTTER, evenly over the whole chicken. Let marinate for anywhere from 2-6 hours.
Step 2 – prepping the rice/cooking the chicken and rice
4) Preheat the oven on 420F. Put the jasmine rice in a sieve, then rinse and gently swish under running water to remove excess starch. Drain well and set aside. In a large, shallow baking-dish (a shallow dish will allow the rice cook evenly), melt the reserved 1 tbsp of turmeric butter over medium-high heat, then cook the rice in it for about 3 mins. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock, then scatter the lemongrass on the top. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for 3 min without stirring.
5) Now, place a baking-rack over the baking-dish, and set the chicken on top, breast-side down first (this gives the thighs a head start and prevents the breasts from overcooking). Place the whole thing in the middle-rack of the oven and roast for 15 min, then gently turn the chicken over so the breast-side now faces up, and roast for another 30-35 min until the chicken is browned. Remove the baking-rack with the chicken on top, and let rest for 10 min. Leave the rice in the oven during this time so it can finish cooking.
Step 3 – serving the chicken and rice with the coconut sauce
6) Remove all the lemongrass from the rice. The best way to cut the chicken is with a scissors, and make sure that you do it right over the rice so it can catch all the precious juice/butter that comes out of the chicken. Remove the lemongrass from inside the cavity, then serve immediately with the spicy coconut sauce (reheated gently over low heat).