Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Lost Art of Chicken Thighs


"They're cheaper than chicken breasts so they're probably not as good."

"I dunno...they look pretty fatty to me."

"I'm a breast guy, not a thigh man."

I'm not sure why chicken thighs have gotten such a bad rap these days, but for someone that's just starting out in the kitchen, they're one of the easier meats to cook.

Reason 1: They're forgiving - I'm about 15% scared shitless of cooking chicken for other people. Red meat you can undercook. Fish you can undercook. Chicken? Nope. And as a result, I tend to cook the shit out of it (which usually means it's dry).  It's an irrational fear (and I know I'm being too self-critical); however, if I'm scared, then a young 24-year-old, trying to impress a girl, will be scared (well...or oblivious). Chicken thighs are forgiving, you can overcook them a little and they won't dry out. 

Reason 2: They're sneaky - That dark thigh meat is naturally flavorful and the small, intertwined pieces of fat just add to that flavor. Everyone knows that a dry-aged ribeye steak has more natural flavor than a New York strip. Why? The beautiful beautiful fat marbling of course...

Bone-in chicken thighs? Even better.

With just salt, pepper, and olive oil you can rock a pretty solid meal. You don't have to go all la cuisine de fran├žais on her (spending a whole paycheck on random spices and aromatics that you'll use just once while the rest becomes a 4th-grade science project in your fridge). So the question is, why wouldn't you pick a food ingredient that's already helping you out?

Trim the fat!
Reason 3: They're cheaper - Between the $10 shots of Petron and the $15 Bear Fights, food have become marginalized by our alcohol habits. I get it and I know, I'm in the same boat. So get happy, chicken thighs are typically $2-$3 per lb cheaper than their counterparts.

Reason 4: They're healthy - I don't buy the "it's too fatty argument." 75% of us ingest pounds of sugar and fake sugar, devour fried balls of dough, and pretend pork belly isn't just a gloried stack of fifteen glued-together slices of bacon. If you're conscientious (read: hypersensitive) trim the fat and/or buy skinless. And for this "Age of Nutritionalism" (cue Michael Pollan) that we live in, settle down, they're as nutritionally equivalent as their chicken breast counterpart.


Chicken Thigh Ideas:
If you're reading this far, I'm hoping I've "inceptioned" you into buying chicken thighs.  To help you out, here's a list of various meals that I've thrown together with a package of chicken thighs. In most cases, I've used what I already had in my pantry. Salt, pepper, and olive oil should always be staples. Red and white onions, garlic...maybe some ancho powder or Slap Ya Mama seasoning. BBQ sauce or soy sauce. An electric grill, a cast-iron skillet, or a just a motherfuckin' pot.

(Recipe links in the coming days)

Grilled BBQ chicken thigh w/ avocado, grilled onions, scallions on an onion bun. No pots, all on grill

My ultimate lazy man's, one pot, fake Southwestern chicken dish

Again, a one pot meal. Braised chicken in cast-iron skillet then roasted in the oven

Simmering chicken thighs in a reducing a white wine, red pepper & onion sauce

Simmered chicken thighs w/ caramelized red pepper and onions, wild grain rice, and yellow squash

Grilled chicken thighs with olive oil, salt, pepper, and Ancho seasoning

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