You can use canned coconut milk for the South Indian Chicken Curry, but it often has a "tinny" flavor, so I prefer to make it fresh from dried, shredded coconut. Be sure you don't buy the sweetened shredded coconut used for baking, which is too sweet to use in curries. If you can't find unsweetened grated coconut at your grocery store, try a natural-foods store or Indian market.
Soak coconut in 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and process for 1 minute. Line a medium bowl with a double layer of cheesecloth and pour in the coconut-water paste. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth together and squeeze out all of the liquid in the coconut. This will give you about 1 cup of a rich, thick milk. Set aside.
1. Soak 1 cup coconut in 1 cup boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Liquefy the mixture in a blender, and strain through a piece of cheesecloth.
3. Squeeze all the liquid, or "milk," out of the coconut meat.
Using the coconut pulp left in the cheesecloth, repeat the soaking and blending process with another cup of boiling water. Strain through cheesecloth into a separate bowl. This second batch is much thinner than the first; when preparing the chicken curry, add this cup of thin coconut milk first.
Photo: Suzanne Roman