Dates get paired with their cousin coconut here in this deeply warming, slightly spicy chicken braise. Lime, cilantro and crispy shallots brighten and round out this dish that feels like a soft landing into fall after a long, hot summer. If you can’t find fried shallots in your store, crispy onions, such as French’s, will also work.
Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels, then season all over with salt and pepper. Working over a small bowl, use a Microplane to grate the garlic and ginger into the bowl, then stir in the brown sugar, chile paste and cinnamon.
In a deep 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add half the chicken pieces, skin-side down, and cook, without moving, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and repeat cooking the remaining chicken pieces, transferring them to the plate when done. Remove the skillet from the heat and pour off all but about 2 tablespoons fat from the pan.
Let the skillet stay off the heat for about 1 minute, then add the garlic-cinnamon mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 to 60 seconds. Return the skillet to medium heat and stir in the coconut milk, scraping up any brown bits that have formed at the bottom of the pan. Return all the chicken pieces to the skillet, skin-side up, and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle, steady simmer, then cover the skillet with a lid and cook for 20 minutes. While the chicken simmers, heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Uncover the skillet, then transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Add the dates so they mostly land on top of the chicken, then continue cooking until the chicken is very tender and the dates are soft and caramelized, about 15 minutes more.
Leave the chicken in the skillet or transfer to a large serving platter. Sprinkle with crispy shallots and cilantro leaves and serve with rice and lime wedges for squeezing over each dish.
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