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July 26, 2007

All About The Thighs

Apparently you get recipes this week... who knew? More restaurants next week (I've been getting around, but I want to make a few return visits), but in the interim here's another improvisation that turned out pretty well. I'm on record as rarely getting excited about chicken, but I love chicken thighs. They're criminally underrated. Legs are more about the Flintstones factor than the quality of the meat. Wings are awesome with an insane skin-to-meat ratio, but that awesomeness is widely acknowledged. Breasts are the prom queen of the chicken carcass -- not without their charm, but kinda shallow and grossly overrated. But the thighs -- tender, moist and full of flavor -- quietly sit at the edge of the spotlight, humbly content with the knowledge that they're where it's at.

Dominic Armato

6 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
salt & pepper
all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. canola oil
4 garlic cloves
½ C. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. sambal (Asian chile sauce)

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Three Citrus Sauce
Serves 2-3

While prepping, preheat your oven to 500º. Dry the chicken thighs as much as possible with paper towels, so they'll get nice and crispy when you sear them. Season them liberally on both sides with kosher salt and pepper, then dredge them in the flour, shaking off any excess.

Add the canola oil to a large cast iron (or other heavy oven safe) skillet, throw in the peeled garlic cloves and heat the oil over medium high. Cook the garlic cloves, turning as appropriate, until they're a nice golden brown on all sides. Remove the garlic cloves from the skillet and save them. Add the chicken thighs to the skillet, skin down, and cook until the skin is golden and crispy, about 3-4 minutes. Flip the thighs and cook on the meaty side for another 3-4 minutes, then shove the entire skillet in the oven until the thighs are finished cooking. It'll probably take another 3-4, but you should probably either use a thermometer or cut into one to check. This is chicken we're talking about, after all. Once the chicken is cooked through, transfer the thighs to a plate, put the plate in a warming drawer if you have one (I don't... *sigh*) and put the skillet, oil and chicken grease and all, back on the stove over medium heat.

Add the citrus juices, fish sauce, soy sauce, thyme, sugar and sambal to the skillet drippings, stir everything together, and continue cooking until it's reduced down and thickened to a nice saucy consistency. While this is happening, return the cooked garlic cloves to the skillet and kind of smoosh them into the sauce. You could chop them up, I suppose, but somehow that feels a little too refined for a cast iron dish. I support smooshing. Once the sauce has reached the consistency you want, get it off the heat immediately... it can caramelize and burn very quickly if you leave it on the heat.

Top the thighs with the sauce and serve them alongside your starch and vegetable of choice. I personally sautéed up some asparagus (left over from last night) and threw some rice in the rice cooker, along with a bit of the zest from my citrus. I can heartily endorse these particular companions for your chicken, but go with whatever looks fresh and tickles your fancy.


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