Of all the meats, chicken tends to be my least favorite.
Perhaps its because, in my twenties, going on a “health food” diet meant eating completely flavorless boneless and skinless chicken breasts, baked until dry and served on top of a barely dressed salad. Bleck.
They told us our meat had to be white! They insisted it must be lean! And worst of all, they told us the skin was bad for us.
If you are eating a clean animal and your body and heart are aligned with this choice, then there’s no reason to avoid beef or pork, nor is there a reason to avoid the fat and the skin on any meat! They impart flavor, texture, and deliciousness. In the case of chicken especially, skip over the (totally overrated!) breasts, and head on down to the (totally sexy!) thighs.
Top 3 reasons I love a good thigh:
1. They are less expensive than the breast. Often by a lot!
2. They are nearly impossible to overcook.
3. They whip up brilliantly in the skillet – no oven required!
I kind of hate using my oven. I spend 90% of my cooking time on the stovetop.
You can get up close and personal with your food when its cooking in a skillet; tasting, adjusting seasonings, and learning each and every time what is working and what isn’t.
Often when I work with someone who doesn’t like to cook or feels nervous in the kitchen, they are doing very little in a skillet, instead putting everything in baking pan and 350-ing it to death. No wonder they are uninspired by food!
This super simple recipe (more like a method and with infinite variations) is a winner every time.
I made a test batch for this blog post and my friend Gaby stopped over as they were finishing up in the skillet. We got to talking, and started nibbling on the chicken, at first just picking at the crispy bits of skin.
Within minutes we were both holding a thigh, ripping the tender meat off the bone, licking our fingers, making obscene noises, and wiping our chins with satisfaction.
Gaby apologized profusely as she was leaving, she hadn’t meant to eat a quarter of the family dinner. Two days later she called me to say “I’ve been thinking about your thighs non-stop!” I was flattered.
So I invited her back over to show her how to make them. And she so nicely wrote out the ingredients for me on my kitchen chalk board. It was then that I realized: this is a 5 ingredient recipe! My favorite kind.
Here’s the method:
1. Buy yourself some bone-in, skin-on organic chicken thighs. You can buy boneless and skinless thighs, they are good and will cook much quicker, but for the ultimate sexiness of this dish you need the skin to get crispy. And whenever the bone is in the meat still, it retains a whole lot of juiciness.
Buying organic means those chickens have not eaten Genetically Modified corn and soy feed or pumped up on antibiotics. Bonus points of you can score a local free-range chicken!
2. Put a cast iron skillet on a medium high flame and get it pre-heated. You can use stainless too, but it won’t build the same crust!
3. Pull those juicy thighs out of the package and set them out on a plate to season. Coat all sides generously with your seasonings (don’t be stingy – chicken needs a solid layer of seasonings to cross over into awesome territory). If you are shy about spices, this is a great place to play with some new ones. It’s incredibly hard to screw up the seasonings on thighs!
For quick combinations, use this equation:
salt (quality sea salt!) +
pepper (fresh ground!) +
1 red spice (cayenne / smoked paprika / chili) +
1 dried herb (rosemary / thyme / basil) =
no fail spice combo.
4. Once the pan is good and hot, coat the bottom lightly with a high smoke point (HSP) oil and lay the thighs in the skillet, skin side down. You should hear a nice sizzle and pop when they hit the pan! The thighs and skin are high in fat, so as it cooks that fat will render and make the skin crispy. Resist the urge to move them meat around! This ruins the crust. Just lay it in and leave it alone.
Adjust the heat so its sizzling along at a nice medium, no need for crazy fried flying fat bombs or a smoky kitchen, the skin is going to get good and crispy. If it is splattering grease, cover it with a splatter screen. They are cheap and come in handy often if you’re a skillet cooker.
5. Use some tongs and flip em! Depending on the thickness of your thighs, they may be ready to flip in about 10-12 minutes. Peek underneath, and if its got a nice dark crispy skin, its ready to go to the other side. Flip, and then pop a lid on the whole thing.
Cook through the other side for another 8-10 minutes or so, until the meat gives off its juices or the internal temperature reaches around 165/170. I like to just poke and peek into one just to make sure all the pink is gone.
Don’t worry about overcooking, you can even turn off the heat when I think they are done and leave them in the skillet – the cast iron continues to cook them through and the chicken comes down in temperature and rests (key for even more juiciness!)
6. Cut up some citrus and squeeze it over the whole skillet. While this step isn’t totally necessary, it adds even more flavor. A nice brightness to the chicken! I mostly use lemon or lime, but I imagine orange would be awesome as well. Let it rest.
Let me know what you think. I love converting people over to the thigh. Because when cooked this way, they are flipping delicious!
Do you think you will give this recipe a go? Let us know!
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