Coconut Milk Brined Chicken Kabobs
If you don’t include coconut milk in your standard pantry stock, you definitely should! As a dairy substitute or just to be used as a sauce or soup base, coconut milk is versatile, full of healthy fat and just plain delicious.
Like many of the ingredients I like to use, coconut milk can be found in the Asian section of any Western grocery store although I think there are better brands available at most Asian markets. Usually you’ll find a generic store brand and also the Thai Kitchen brand available.
There are a few things you should consider when shopping for coconut milk and I’ll help briefly outline the differences and purposes. You usually will first notice that there are three variations to choose from, Lite, Regular Fat and Coconut Cream which essentially is just a range from thin to thick.
Thin or “Lite” coconut milk typically is processed 2 or 3 times. What this means is that the mature coconut flesh is grated and then strained through, usually using cheesecloth. The pulp left it the cheesecloth is mixed with water and then is strained again. Sometimes this may be done a 3rd time.
The regular fat coconut milk is also made from grated mature coconut and is the liquid product made from straining it the first time. It’s thicker because it’s not watered down at all.
Coconut cream is the thickest and usually would be used to make a nice thick and rich sauce like in a curry. It’s made by simmering shredded coconut in water and then cooled. The coconut cream rises when cooled and that’s what’s sold as coconut cream. Coconut cream is also found in regular fat coconut milk and is the solid part which rises to the top of the can.
I rarely use “Lite” coconut milk but it would be best used in a soup. Even in that case, I would almost always still just go with the regular version.
For this application, since we are using the coconut milk as a brine or marinade, the regular fat content will work great. You’ll just want to be sure to mix the product well to combine the solids with the liquid as the product tends to separate in the can.
You’ll often hear of fried chicken recipes, usually from the South, asking you soak the chicken overnight in buttermilk. This technique is similar and serves the same purpose in a similar way as a traditional brine of salted water.
Brining chicken is especially useful when grilling as it will help retain moisture and keep the chicken from drying out during the cooking process. It will also result in a more tender and flavorful product as the herbs and spices used will penetrate the meat and be more apparent.
You can really use any spice blend you like with your kabobs. I went with something simple using ingredients you likely won’t need to run out and purchase.
One thing also to note before I get into the recipe is the grilling technique. I like to use a hack, especially when grilling chicken thighs which can take a bit more time than breast meat but also is more forgiving. We are essentially using the grill to mark the kababs and give them that nice char and color. Once this is achieved, we will transfer the chicken to a 350 degree oven to fully cook. This technique will help you get the beautiful color you’re looking for without burning the exterior while the inside still cooks. It is a foolproof method to perfect results!
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks)
- 2 cans full fat coconut milk
- 2 bunches cilantro (chopped)
- 1 head garlic (chopped)
- 2 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 c worcestershire sauce
- juice and zest of 2 limes
- 2 Tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 4-5 bell peppers (variety of colors, cut into 1 1/2 inch squares)
- 2-3 red onions (cut into petals)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 20 wood skewers (soaked in water)
In a large bowl, mix the coconut milk, cilantro, garlic, cumin, cayenne, worcestershire, lime juice and zest, salt and pepper.
Place the chicken in a non reactive container like a deep glass casserole. Pour the coconut milk brine over the chicken. Mix together well so that all the chicken is coated. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.
Combine the cut bell pepper with the onion petals in a bowl. Toss with olive oil and salt.
Remove the chicken from the brine and place in a colander or in a strainer in the sink to let some of the brine drip off.
Heat your grill pan or get your charcoal going and turn your oven on to 350.
While the grill is heating, make your skewers by alternating a piece of chicken with red onion and bell peppers. If some of the pieces of chicken are bigger than others, it’s ok to fold them over to skewer.
Make the skewers as uniform as possible for the nicest end presentation. I like to end each skewer with a piece of onion facing inward to hold them together better.
Once your grill is hot, place the skewers on and let them cook for about 3-5 minutes or until they start to char a bit then carefully flip them over and repeat on the other side.
When you have achieved the nice grill color, remove the skewers and place on a rimmed sheet tray and place the tray in the oven.
Chicken thighs are relatively forgiving so overcooking them isn’t as big as an issue as with breast meat. You will want to cook them for about 10 minutes. If you have a meat thermometer, you may remove them from the oven when the temperature hits 165.
Let the kabobs rest for about 5 minutes. You can serve these family style, as an appetizer or they would go great with some saffron rice and a side salad!