Paleo Pumpkin Chicken Curry

2015-10-06
 

The inspiration for this recipe came from a recent Fall issue of Parents Magazine.   I have been receiving Parents magazine for probably a minimum of four years now.  My daughter just recently turned one.  While I would like to claim that I was merely compiling years of knowledge in preparation for parenthood, that is not the case.  At first, I assumed my Mom was trying to send a not-so-subtle hint to my husband and me, but the reality is that no one in my family knows the origin of the subscription.  So, thank you mystery person and/or company!  I was certainly happy to tackle a portion of those magazines for research when I was pregnant, and now they have also proven to be a source of recipe inspiration.

Each issue has a family-friendly recipe or two.  This recipe in particular caught my eye because I love almost any kind of curry, and I especially loved the autumn twist of adding pumpkin.  The recipe didn’t need modifications to become paleo, but I modified it quite a bit to suite my family’s tastes, and my style of cooking.  I am so lucky to have a family that graciously tastes my recipes, gives me great feedback, and manages to compliment even what I consider a “failure.”  I hope that you enjoy the fruits of our collective labor. :)

The changes I made to the original recipe’s curry composition were significant.  While I could appreciate their efforts to make a low fat recipe by using chicken breasts and light coconut milk, I chose chicken thighs and full fat coconut milk.

Why the thighs?

In this type of dish, chicken thighs are so much easier to cook because they are almost fail proof.  My personal experience is that chicken breasts easily tighten-up in the searing process and become tough.  I prefer the tender, succulent, and most importantly consistent result I get with thighs.  However, if you prefer chicken breasts – go for it!

Creamy = Dreamy

I have used both light and full-fat coconut milk in the past.  However, my current favorite is the latter.  Over the years, I have gradually let go of my fear of using “fat” in my cooking, and I have whole-heartedly embraced healthy fats.  Not surprisingly, full-fat coconut milk often yields a creamier result, but using light coconut milk will neither change the flavor profile nor diminish the deliciousness of the curry.

Frozen or Fresh?

The original recipe called for fresh spinach to be added at the very end and cooked lightly.  Even when using baby spinach, the stalks can end up staying too tough, while the leaves of the spinach become slimy.

Instead, I prefer to use chopped frozen spinach in the place of fresh because the texture and evenness of the result.  I use the same technique in my Spanikopita Turkey Burgers.  By sautéing the diced onion with the frozen spinach and chicken broth, the vegetables cook quickly and evenly, the garlic doesn’t burn, and the broth of the curry gets an incredible slow cooked mouthfeel.

The spice of life

Whether or not you are familiar with my recipes, from this one alone you could probably surmise that spicy food is my thing.  However, before you close your browser and hide, I’m not talking the kind of spicy that my Papou liked: he ate his Chinese food so spicy that he used his napkin mostly to dab the sweat around his eyes and forehead.  If my Papou is like a ghost pepper, my Dad is like a habanero: he adds Chipotle Tabasco sauce and a seasoning called Hot Shots (cayenne mixed with black pepper) to EVERYTHING.  My kind of spicy is somewhere between a pepperoncini and jalapeño: think medium salsa. :)

I replaced the generic curry powder for my current favorite hot madras curry powder.  There are so many different combinations of spices that make up curry powder; and my hope is one day to create my own.  Madras curry is on the spicier side and therefore I eliminated the cayenne from the original recipe.  This curry provides an even level of heat and is an amazing complement to the pumpkin, garlic and ginger in this recipe.

Choose a side

I could eat this dish without anything additional, but the beauty of all that creamy goodness is that it just screams for something to soak up the sauce.  There are tons of choices: cauliflower rice, brown or basmati rice, zucchini noodles (use a veggie peeler), steamed cabbage… the possibilities are endless!  With so many choices of sides, no one could dare complain about leftovers, not to mention that a dish like this gets even better the next day.

So where’s the pumpkin?

Only one brief mention above and it’s in the recipe title?!  Yep.  Trust me, the pumpkin is in there… an ENTIRE CAN.  Yet, the flavor is subtle, the smoothness improves the texture and thickness of the curry (whether you use light or regular coconut milk), and it makes the color of the curry quite striking.  So if you needed proof that pumpkin and savory go together, I’m confident that this recipe will convince you … and anyone that is lucky enough to eat this meal you’ve prepared.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 2 packages boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 pkg (16 oz) frozen, chopped, spinach
  • 1 tbs minced garlic, or 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup organic chicken broth
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 2 tbs hot madras curry powder
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • 1. Heat 1 tbs oil in a large nonstick skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat
  • 2. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and sear on both sides, about 4 minutes per side
  • 3. Remove chicken from pan and set aside in a large dish
  • 4. Add minced onions to pot and sautée for a minute or two before adding frozen spinach
  • 5. Pour chicken broth over the onion and spinach mixture
  • 6. Add minced garlic, stir briefly, cap, and cook until onion is tender and spinach has thawed – about 5-10 minutes
  • 7. Add coconut milk, pumpkin , curry powder, ginger, stirring well
  • 8. Once all ingredients have been evenly distributed, place chicken and drippings back into pot
  • 9. Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 35-40 minutes or until chicken is cooked completely and pulls apart
  • 10. Taste for salt content; add salt and/or black pepper if necessary
  • 11. Serve with cauliflower rice, brown or basmati rice
  • 12. Enjoy!