Not all coconut milk is created equal. Canned coconut milk – both regular and light – is made from finely ground coconut flesh that is recombined with water for a uniform, gooey texture that can easily overwhelm other ingredients. This is one of the reasons why in Colombia they make theirs, and we found out on Milk Street that it was a lot easier than it looks.
In this recipe from our book “Milk Street Tuesday Nights”, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we use a quick homemade coconut milk to braise tasty chicken thighs.
The milk comes together in a blender by mixing unsweetened grated coconut with hot water. We then filter the mixture, pressing on the solids to extract a milk that is lighter in flavor and body. The process only takes a few minutes and results in a light, flavorful coconut milk that works wonderfully.
Colombian cooks use milk as the base for a coarse, bright yellow sauce topped with powdered broth and a packet of heavy annatto sazón. We substitute the easier-to-find turmeric and soy sauce to reproduce the same flavor.
The tomato paste adds depth and the fresh cherry tomatoes – mixed with fresh lime juice – brighten up the chicken. The fresh, buttery flavor of coconut milk enhances rather than dominates other flavors for a succulent-textured dish with a floral scent.