Fall is without a doubt my favorite time of year. Golden leaves hang sparsely on greying branches not willing to completely let go. Brisk wind stings my cheeks in the early mornings as I mount up my car to cart kids to school in the dim light of dawn. My stock wardrobe of early fall flowy dresses has been replaced by Sheepskin boots, woolen tartan-print scarves, puffy down vests and coats snugly protecting me from the cold.
Appetites make a digital shift at this time of year toward soul-warming comfort foods; thick, chunky soups, hearty stews and stick-to-your-ribs recipes are what we crave. With a candy-filled Halloween just past us, it has given pause for reflection; how can I enjoy my favorite comfort foods without ending up with a thick, chunky waistline myself?
Curry is a dish I love. After living in Singapore and traveling throughout Asia, I’ve enjoyed many curry varieties and have not met one I do not love. A favorite I brought back to the U.S. after my tenure in South East Asia was a Straits of Malacca curry made by combining spices into a curry paste which smolders over medium heat until very fragrant and then is mixed with canned coconut milk to make a luxurious, smooth sauce. Making curry powder from scratch is a bit of a labor of love but entirely worth it, allowing precision in the flavor profile to perfect each recipe individually.
Don’t let the number of ingredients in this recipe scare you. I tend to lean toward fast-and-furious slow cooker recipes but every once in a awhile I find doting over a special recipe worth the time. This curry is one of those. The layering of flavors is delicious with tangy lemongrass, creamy coconut milk, salty fish sauce and citrus from the lime leaves. It is sure to warm any cold weather day!
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Slow Cooker Thai Red Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk
Ingredients for the Curry Powder:
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground Turmeric
- 1 ½ Bay Leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoons Coriander (seeds or ground)
- 1 tablespoon Cumin Seed
- 1 teaspoon ground Ginger
- ½ teaspoon White Peppercorns
- 1 ½ teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
- 1 whole Clove
Ingredients for the Thai Red Chicken Curry:
Ingredients for the Curry:
- 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 1 pound Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (approximately 2 large breasts), cut into ½ inch strips across the breast
- 1 ½ cups Yellow Onions , slices and slices separated into pieces
- 1 cup fresh Tomato , chopped
- 1 Yellow Sweet Pepper , cored and cut lengthwise into strips (cut strips in half if they are extra-long)
- 1 Red Sweet Pepper , cored and cut lengthwise into strips (cut strips in half if they are extra-long)
- 1 cup fresh Pineapple , chopped into bite-size pieces
- ½ cup Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
- 3 ¾ cups Coconut Milk canned or from a carton
- 2 Makrut Lime Leaves* (available in the fresh herb section the produce area of most grocery stores or at Asian grocery stores)
- 1 ½ inch piece of Lemongrass , thinly sliced across the stalk forming small rings
- ¼ cup Basil (Thai Basil if available), thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh Ginger Root , peeled and finely diced
- Optional garnish: Fresh torn Cilantro leaves , grated Coconut and chopped Peanuts
Instructions for preparing the curry powder:
- In a small skillet combine the ingredients for the curry powder (the skillet is dry). Over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, blend the spices for 2 minutes until they begin to become fragrant. Lower heat and continue to cook for 5 minutes at which time the spices will be fragrant and will be a brownish color. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- When cool enough to handle process the spice blend in a spice grinder, dedicated coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to make a powder. Set aside.
Instructions for preparing the Thai Red Chicken Curry:
- In large skillet over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. When hot add the chicken breast strips and brown on each side (a few minutes a side; they will cook fully in the slow cooker). Place the chicken into the slow cooker.
- Add the curry powder evenly over the chicken in the slow cooker. Toss to coat.
- Warm the skillet again over medium-high heat and add the onions. Stir until the onions soften and pick up any pan drippings left from the chicken. Add them to the slow cooker.
- Evenly layer the yellow and red pepper, tomato, pineapple on top of the onions.
- Next add the chicken stock and coconut milk; followed by the seasonings (makrut lime leaves, lemongrass, basil, fish sauce, brown sugar, diced ginger).
- Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 hours or high for six hours. Serve curry over rice garnished with torn cilantro leaves, grated coconut and chopped peanuts if desired.