Coconut chicken curry’s a lot easier than you might imagine

It didn’t seem too much to ask for. I wanted a coconut chicken curry that is fast, delicious and not loaded with fat. Turned out to be easier than I expected.

Let’s start with the sauce. The key is to make it rich and flavorful without resorting to the usual culprit — full-fat coconut milk. I considered using light coconut milk, but generally have found curries made with it to be thin and uninspiring. Fat, after all, is mighty yummy.

My solution was to start with a small amount of light coconut milk, but then doctor it up.

Pureeing into it a jar of roasted red peppers and a small onion was just the trick. This provided the sauce with body, as well as both sweet and savory flavors.

A hefty dose of curry powder and some lemon grass added during cooking rounded it all out.

To cook, all I did was bring my sauce to a simmer in a large saute pan, then add my chicken. To bulk out the recipe with good lean protein, I also added a can of chickpeas. I tasted it as it cooked and felt it was missing something… sweet. But I wanted to avoid the obvious — sugar, honey, etc. — if I could.

So I tried added grated carrots. Perfect! More healthy veggies and just the right amount of natural sweetness.

While you could use boneless, skinless chicken breasts in this recipe, I prefer thighs. They have a richer flavor and don’t get tough the way breasts can.

Speedy and light chicken curry

1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup light coconut milk

2 teaspoons curry powder

3 3-inch lengths fresh lemon grass

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1 cup grated carrots

1¾ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

In a blender or food processor, combine the red peppers, onion, broth, coconut milk and curry powder. Process or puree until completely smooth.

Pour the sauce into a large, deep saute pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer. Use a rolling pin or meat mallet to lightly crush the lemon grass, then add to the sauce. Stir in the chickpeas and carrots. Nestle the chicken thighs into the sauce, being sure the tops are covered. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Remove and discard the lemon grass. Serve the chicken with chickpeas, carrots and sauce spooned over it.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 320 calories; 110 calories from fat (34 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 90 mg cholesterol; 23 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 30 g protein; 600 mg sodium.

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