Pimping your Chicken Thighs
Chicken is one of the most versatile meats on the planet. It can be prepared a million different ways, and in New Orleans, a whole chicken is a dream for making gumbo and jambalaya easier to prepare.
The other day, I was staring in my fridge and shaking my head. What a travesty for a chef to open a refrigerator to find: NOTHING.
When I say nothing, I mean: a package of corn tortillas, celery, a half of a lime, and chopped garlic that was screaming to be put to rest. That’s nothing.
My salvation was in the freezer. I found a large package of chicken thighs. Bone in, of course. The bone carries the flavor of the entire piece of meat.
I had a couple of frozen boneless chicken breasts in the freezer also, but they just don’t move me. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot you can do with them also, but the imagination is more involved to assure that your end result will not be an overcooked, tasteless shoe sole. We will cover that in another post.
So, my friends…..this blog entry is about how to pet 6 birds with one hand. I am going to share with you how to prepare chicken thighs as step 1, and a few different sauces for when you are ready to defrost and finish them. It’s like owning 1 pair of black pants, and a bunch of cool shirts, jackets, etc. each time you eat the chicken, it will be different, but the foundation will stay the same.
I told you cooking isn’t hard
I seasoned the thighs with salt and black pepper and I put olive oil in a skillet. I seared the chicken thighs, top side down first, and seasoned the bottom side when the top side was searing. I’m dizzy. Flip the thighs to the bottom side and after about 2 minutes, add some chicken stock. If you have store bought, you aren’t penalized. Yet. I will post a blog soon specifically on how to make stocks. They are so freaking easy and after you smell the love in your house, and taste them, you will throw rocks at the boxed stuff and the canned stuff? Forget it.
The chicken stock is going to bring the temperature down ( unless you heat it ), but I was feeling half lazy. Oh, speaking of lazy, if you want to skip the searing part, you can season them and throw them in the oven to partially cook, but they will NOT be the same. Searing is a method that brings another dimension to food and it’s so worth it. If you find it that painful, open a bottle of wine or make a cocktail. The pain will subside.
So, here is a picture of the thighs after what I just explained. They already look awesome. Just wait.
These are about 1/4 of the way cooked. See how the skin is really brown? That is from searing. It’s as pretty as someone who just returned from the islands, and it changes the chemistry in favor of the chicken.
After adding chicken stock, put the entire skillet in the oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remember, the bone in chicken will take longer to cook, but you don’t want to completely cook the chicken, because you won’t have a margin to finish them and keep them moist. One thing I would like you to ditch is your fear of under cooking chicken.
No Chicken should ever be overcooked. It’s against the law of good food.
When you remove the chicken from the oven, you will have some great jus going on from the chicken, combined with the stock. Save it. This is gold, Jerry. Gold.
Now you’re ready to either take a few thighs and finish them for dinner the same night, or let them cool and package them solo or in duos or trios etc. to finish in a different way each time.
Sauces and toppings to finish chicken thighs:
I am going to cover a few sauces, and paste a video from one of my 50 cooking videos for Ehow/Rachel Ray. It’s a recipe that is a hit, especially in the south. The picture is shown as the featured picture on today’s blog post.
Go to the Asian market and buy some Curry Pastes. Yellow, green, red ( my favorite ),and panang. While you are there, stock up on coconut milk. These 2 things are non perishable and should be a staple in an active kitchen.
Depending on how many thighs you are finishing, or how much sauce you want, you will use either a half or a whole can of coconut milk. I say, use a whole can. You can keep the sauce in the fridge for quite a while or put it in a plastic squeeze bottle to use on plates for garnish. It can also be used in another room of the house, with someone you like a LOT.
In a saucepan, mix your favorite curry paste into warm coconut milk. Stir it very well to get rid of the clumps and make sure it is smooth. Add a little at a time, and taste as you go because it can get spicy really fast. Add some lemongrass ( crushed with the flat side of a knife ). Add some sugar to get the sweet-spicy thing going, and if you want it really thick, add cornstarch mixed in water until it’s the consistency you like. Either finish the chicken in the oven, with chicken stock, or slowly simmer it in the coconut curry, on the stovetop. Eat it with jasmine rice and maybe some bok choy with peanuts.
Fresh Tomatoes, Olives and Rosemary
Chop a few tomatoes, throw them in a skillet with garlic, white wine, a nice sized sprig of rosemary and some roughly chopped pitted green olives and kalamatas ( NOT BLACK OLIVES IN A CAN! ) . Let the sauce reduce a bit until it’s kind of syrup-y. Finish the chicken thigh(s), as mentioned above, pour the tomato-olive tapenade over the chicken and throw some good quality feta cheese on top. Eat this with some orzo, cous cous, or roasted eggplant and a salad if you don’t want carbs in your meal.
Place your chicken thigh(s) in a skillet with some olive oil, top side up. When the oil is hot, add some onions( pearl onions are great ), baby carrots, mixed mushrooms and anything else that is appealing to you and won’t take very long to cook. Toss all of it around in the skillet to get coated, and season the veggies you throw in. Pour some white wine, red wine, or brandy in the skillet. If you have a gas stove, it will cause a flame ( which personally excites me to no end ). If you have an electric stove, better luck next time. The alcohol will deglaze the pan and give the chicken and veggies yet, another dimension. If you want to go the southwest route, throw in a can of black beans, corn, etc and instead of wine, hit it with tequila. Let the liquids reduce a bit and if you want to thicken it at the end. throw in some very cold butter chips, a little at a time. Another dimension.
Are you getting this yet?
Finally, here is the link to the video which is another way to finish chicken thighs. This is fun stuff, and your life or time in the kitchen doesn’t have to feel like a prison sentence. Stick with me. I love to play with my food, and I will make sure you learn to love it to. It’s freedom, and we are never promised the next moment, so screw the stress, and let the kitchen be your playground.
See you soon.