Chicken and Mangoes in Yogurt

Cooking meat in milk is not new. There was a pork cooked-in milk recipe in a 1970s-something cookbook that came with our SEB pressure cooker when I was a little girl. I tried it, liked it, and I’ve cooked it many times before. Jamie Oliver has a chicken-in-milk recipe that has been tried and enjoyed by a mom in Kuwait. I saw a photo from her entry in Food Gawker yesterday and decided I would do my version. With a twist, naturally. Yogurt instead of milk and with cubes of fresh ripe mangoes.

Chicken and fresh mangoes cooked in yogurt.

How did it turn out? Can I brag just this one time? Because it tasted quite heavenly and I am not being melodramatic. It was perfect. The chicken meat was moist and juicy, the sparse sauce was thick with just the right balance between tang and sweetness. And the aroma… Oh, the aroma. It pays to have fresh herbs growing in the garden. The chopped cilantro blended with the lemon zest and the result was quite extraordinary.

Here is a step-by-step visual guide.

Chop a kilo and a half of chicken into serving-size pieces. You can use any part of the chicken, with or minus the skins. We prefer thighs, drumsticks, and backs so those were the parts I used. Place the cut-up chicken in a bowl, and season with a tablespoonful of salt and an equal amount of freshly ground pepper. Mix well and leave to marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Take two onions, peel them, and roughly chop them up. Take two ripe and juicy mangoes, split to remove the stones, then score the flesh with a sharp pointed knife to create cubes. Scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Take a handful of fresh cilantro and roughly chop.

Heat about 3 tablespoonfuls of cooking oil (probably more if you” ‘re not using a non-stick pan) then place the chicken pieces in a single layer in the hot oil. Do NOT move them around for several minutes. Just leave them alone for a while and give them a chance to brown. You have to cook the chicken over high heat to brown the outside. After letting them fry WITHOUT TOUCHING THEM for about five minutes, check to see how they are browning. The photo above shows how the chicken skins have browned slightly but insufficiently.

This photo shows the color and texture you are aiming for. Golden brown. At this stage, the skins are crisp. Turn the chicken pieces over and cook the other side until they are nicely browned as well. Scatter the chopped onions, cubed mangoes, and chopped cilantro over the browned chicken pieces.

Pour a cup and a half of yogurt over the chicken, mangoes, and vegetables. Sprinkle about a teaspoonful of grated lemon zest all over. There is no need to stir at this point. Cover the cooking pan, lower the heat, and simmer for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how large or small your chicken pieces are. Leave them alone, I tell you. Do not be tempted to peek and stir. You want the juices retained in that covered cooking pan.

When the chicken is almost done, stir the stew, cover the pan once more, and turn up the heat to medium. Continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the sauce is reduced to almost nothing. This is how the cooked dish looks. The little sauce that remains is thick after the sugar in the mangoes has caramelized. The yogurt has curdled and its flavors have mixed with the juices. When you don’t stir and stir while cooking, see what happens. The mango cubes retain their shape. They were soft, alright. Very soft. But they did not liquefy and it would have been a pity if they did.

It was a wonderful dinner. The salt and pepper sprinkled on the chicken were just right to season the stew. The sourness of the yogurt was barely discernible after mixing with the sweetness of the mangoes. This dish has no sharp flavors. I can describe it as salty sweet or sour. It” ‘s just an indescribable medley that smells so good with the cilantro and lemon zest. Worth cooking again. And good enough to cook for a dinner party. We”™re having a few of them soon to celebrate the move to the new house.