I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m surprised that people are still in love with chicken breasts. Maybe I just spent too many years eating this overcooked and flavorless cut of meat, but I think they’re terribly boring. High in protein and low in fat, sure. Yet that lack of fat causes chicken breasts to easily overcook, rendering them dry and tough more often than not.
It’s entirely up to the cook to work some magic and transform this overpopular poultry into something of interest. Hence the need for food magazines to dump “47 New and Exciting Chicken Breast Recipes” on their readers. Or why celebrities looking to bulk up turn chicken breasts into smoothies instead of actually chewing. No lie.
But what if I’m not looking for another uninspired chicken breast idea or to drink my meat through a straw? All I’m asking is to not have to reinvent the wheel or chew indefinitely every time I want chicken. That’s why we should consider chicken thighs.
I’m not saying chicken breasts don’t have the lowest calorie and fat counts out of all the parts of the chicken. That is true. On the other hand, dark chicken meat is not as unhealthy as we have been led to believe, or even close to being a poor choice. The nutritional differences between thighs and breasts are insignificant. Thighs have slightly more calories, some more fat and just a little less protein. However, compared to beef, chicken thighs are still a significantly better option, while also holding a lead in the protein department.
It blows my mind that our love for white chicken meat was so strong that for years we exported a large quantity of our dark chicken meat over to Russia and Asia, where it was actually appreciated. It’s crazy because if you went back 50 or so years you wouldn’t even find packaged chicken breasts in grocery stores like you do today. That wasn’t a thing. You’d buy a whole chicken and put it all to use. Now, for many, the idea of cooking and using a whole chicken is bewildering.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are just as easily found as breasts. And when I’m not bringing home a whole bird, I’ll always opt for the thighs. Since they have a little more fat they’re more forgiving to overcooking, and also bring more flavor to the table. Most often, they’re cheaper too. You can sub out thighs for breasts in any recipe, and here’s one a good place to start.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha (or more, if you like things spicy)
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
¼ cup bourbon
8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 3 pounds)
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the salt, paprika and tomato paste to the pot and cook for another couple of minutes. Next, mix in the Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha, orange juice and zest, broth and bourbon. Simmer at a steady rate for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened up. If it gets too thick, add a splash or two more of broth to thin.
While the sauce simmers, heat up your grill to a medium-sized flame. Brush the chicken thighs in the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the thighs until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Then remove them from the grill and add the thighs to the pot of sauce. Coat the chicken in the sauce and simmer for at least five minutes for the chicken to absorb some flavor of the sauce.
Serve the chicken with the sauce, along with your favorite cornbread and a green salad.
loosely adapted from: rachelray.com