A dish of chicken curry with sweet potatoes and coconut milk. (Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times)
I used to think the only reason to buy a chicken was to cook it whole. Why buy one for a recipe calling for parts when the supermarket will cut up the bird for you?

Then one day my mother set me straight. I was ripping the plastic off a package of chicken pieces, getting ready to dredge and fry. She was sitting at my kitchen table, shaking her head.

“I know you know how to cut up a whole chicken, so what’s with the pieces?” she asked. A whole bird, she reminded me, was cheaper, and I’d get the added bonus of the back, neck and gizzards, which I could simmer into stock.

Her logic was sound. It’s one thing to buy a package of thighs or drumsticks when you need a specific part, but you might as well cut up your own bird if you need a variety.

Another advantage to cutting up your own chicken is that you can decide how many parts you like. I prefer cutting the bird into eighths rather than tenths, keeping the breasts whole. White meat cooks faster than dark, so leaving the breasts in large hunks helps ensure that everything finishes in the same amount of time.

You can use your cut-up chicken to make this ginger-and-lime-scented curry with coconut milk, sweet potatoes and chilies. Or substitute your favorite part, be it wings or legs or bone-in breasts. The bright, spicy and gently sweet flavors work well with any pieces of fowl in the pot.



1 (1,5kg) whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed
Black pepper, as needed
2 tablespoons peanut, safflower or vegetable oil
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion
4cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated (1 1/2 tablespoons)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 to 2 jalapeño or Serrano chillies, to taste, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 (440g) can coconut milk
2 medium sweet potatoes (450g), peeled and cut into 4cm chunks
3/4 cup coconut flakes
1 tablespoon black or brown mustard seeds
Fresh coriander leaves
Lime wedges


Heat oven to 165 degrees. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Brown chicken pieces, in batches if necessary, until golden all over, 6 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to a plate.
Stir scallion, ginger, garlic and chillies into pot and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until soft, 1 to 2 minutes. 
Stir in curry paste and cook 1 minute. Stir in coconut milk and sweet potatoes. 
Arrange chicken pieces on top of potatoes, placing breast meat on top. Pour in enough water to come halfway up the sides of chicken. Bring to a boil. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large dry skillet over medium heat, toast coconut flakes until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mustard seeds and toast until they begin to pop, 1 minute more. 
Transfer to a bowl and season with a pinch of salt.
Transfer chicken and sweet potatoes to a platter. 
Return Dutch oven to the stove and simmer over medium-high heat until cooking liquid has thickened to a sauce-like consistency, 5 to 10 minutes. 
Pour over chicken and potatoes. 
Sprinkle with the coconut and mustard seed mixture and coriander. 
Serve with lime wedges for squeezing.

The New York Times