Olympic Chili Coco Chicken

We didn’t get to see the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics live on August 8. We would have missed it forever if it weren’t for a replay yesterday morning. I didn’t even know there was a scheduled replay until about 30 minutes before it started. I had to decide about lunch in those 30 minutes and I knew that to enjoy the opening ceremonies of the Olympics to the fullest, I’d have to cook a dish that would require minimum supervision. A slow-cooked dish was the solution.

It was a sure winner. The combination of chicken and coconut cream never fails to please my family, especially my girls. I don’t know if it was because I used canned tomatoes and canned coconut cream but lunch failed to please me.

Later last night, after a quick trip to the supermarket, we passed by the Manok ni Sr. Pedro stall on the corner just before entering the subdivision. I knew that the few pieces of chicken left over from lunch wouldn’t be enough for everyone and since it was too late to start cooking dinner at 8.00 p.m., cooked roast chicken was the most convenient solution. Besides, although I didn’t admit it to anyone, I wasn’t too hot about the leftovers considering how my chili coco chicken failed to impress me over lunch.

But lo, and behold! My husband who was out working earlier and who missed our chicken lunch was feasting with the leftovers. When the chili coco chicken was gone and he was obliged to eat the Sr. Pedro roast chicken, he still poured all the remaining chili coco chicken sauce over his rice. At that point, I already knew what had happened. And I already knew my mistake. I should have been nice enough to offer to eat the leftovers and shoved the Sr Pedro chicken to everyone. Kidding, kidding. But, seriously, this dish is best served the day after.

Okay, so I missed about 20 minutes of the parade of Nations. Big deal. I already saw the dances and Sarah Brightman and the parade of nations was the least exciting part of the program. I wasn’t dying to see Manny Pacquiao carrying the Philippine flag anyway. Choose meaty parts of the chicken for this dish. I recommend thighs and drumsticks. Place them in a bowl and, for every kilo and a half of chicken, add 2 tbsps. of salt, 1 tbsp. of pepper, 2 tbsps. of grated garlic, 2 tbsps. of grated ginger and 1 tbsp. of dried tarragon. Use twice as much tarragon if using fresh. Cover with cling film and let sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

Arrange the chicken in a single layer in a preheated non-stick wok or frying pan (preheating the pan will make the chicken render fat quickly and you won’t have to add any cooking oil at all) and cook over high heat to brown. You don’t have to brown the chicken very much. You just really want to see the chicken pieces. When they have browned moderately, remove them with a slotted spoon and pour off the oil rendered from the chicken skins. Be careful not to pour off any ginger or garlic. Then, return the chicken pieces to the pan.

Add chili peppers

To the chicken, add chili peppers. You can use mild, hot, or very hot chilis depending on how spicy you want your cooked dish. You can also control the spiciness by using more or less chilis. Six picante chilis were just about right for me. Slit them along the middle for maximum flavor or scrape off the seeds for a milder spiciness.

Add diced tomatoes

If you can get your hands on fresh tomatoes, use them. It isn’t tomato season in the Philippines (they’re not so plump and red and juicy during the typhoon season) so I opted for canned tomatoes. If using fresh, about a kilo of tomatoes should do. Just dice them and add them to the pan.