One Thighs Fits All

Yesterday I was out all day for a story—90 minutes each way in the car, three hours of chatting, 375 pictures taken, stop at farmers’ market on the way home—so dinner was not in any danger of being a complicated endeavor. Circumstances conspired to make it another one in the seemingly infinite series of “chicken parts cooked in a vaguely winglike manner” meals that I’m sure you’re all thrilled to read about on a regular basis. But bear with me; this technique works a treat and is dead easy with any bird parts you might have laying around.

My process with poultry parts done in this fashion is thus: dust them with seasoned flour (salt, pepper, any other spices you like to tilt the flavor in a given ethnic/geographical direction) and put them skin-side down in a skillet with a drop of oil to get them going. Flouring the skin keeps them from sticking, which is especially important if you haven’t had a teflon pan in your kitchen for the last five years. I use the iron skillet unless I’m making quantity for a party. Once the skin is brown, flip them over to get a nice hue on the other side, then remove them and drain the excess fat. How much you leave depends on what you do next; if I’m just adding sauce and letting them finish cooking that way, I remove just about all the fat. If I’m adding vegetables to brown, I leave more. And if I’m making a roux-thickened sauce, I leave a bit more and add enough flour to make a paste.

In this case, I went the flour route, then added sauce once the roux was all toasted and fragrant. The sauce was a pretty downmarket and yet highly appealing combination of condiments from the fridge: ketchup, lemonade, white miso, sriracha, and cider vinegar. As it thickened in the pan, I added enough water to keep it fluid so it wouldn’t stick. I also added a big double handful of chiffonaded collards and tossed them well so they’d really become one with the sauce as they softened. Once the meat was thoroughly cooked, chives and parsley helped brighten up the pan.

This version of the chicken turned out very nicely, but I must hasten to mention that the supporting actors were essential to the result. My readers are so rarified and sophisticated that they appear to prefer vegetables to bacon, so this bit is for them: beets and carrots, picked, washed, and cut, sautéed in a little olive oil, then steamed in a bit of water and a fat pinch of salt. That’s it. No vinegar, no stock, just the tender roots in the reduced shiny glaze: precious gems pulled from the earth and polished.

Now admittedly these roots were served with a saucy thigh perched on top, drooling pungent, salty goodness all over them, but they still shone. When she handed me a piece of yellow beet she plucked from the salad we enjoyed at lunch, I told the woman I visited that I love them because they taste like sweet dirt. Carrots are similar, though both the sweetness and dirtiness are strongly inflected with their own particular personality, and the two together really complement each other, much as the beets impart some of their ruby luster to the carrots in the cooking. Prepared thus, an overnight maceration with some blackcurrant vinegar would make this into a superlative salad for tossing with lentils or eating as-is with some chopped onion and parsley. It’s impossible to go wrong when you’re starting out with food you grew yourself, organically, and picking it mere minutes before cooking.

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  1. July 26

    I learned something important from this post – that the liquid used in a roux-based sauce doesn’t have to be either milk-something or water. Why didn’t I think of that? Duh! Thanks.

  2. July 26

    Love the idea of beets and carrots as a bed for the thighs. This is going on my to cook list of meals for summer!

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