I think the single greatest “convenience food” conceived of in the last several years is the boneless chicken thigh. We all know that thigh meat is so much more flavorful and juicy than the breasts, which are prone to dry out and have little flavor. However, mainstream America loves the ubiquitous breast because they’re easy, particularly when they’re of the boneless variety. It’s easier to eat a piece of meat when bones aren’t involved, and that goes double for thighs. For many (or even for most), it’s too much of a pain to eat a chicken thigh, as the meat to bone ratio isn’t all that great.
Then came the boneless thigh. Hallelujah!
Boneless chicken thighs are flavorful. They’re easy to use and eat. And they’re also damn cheap. Hell, even Whole Foods charges only $3.49 a pound for these, and they’re often on sale. If you buy in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco, you can get them for less than two bucks a pound. I’m not sure if there’s any other meat that’s as cheap as this.
So, what do you do with boneless thighs? Pretty much any damn thing you want to, as even if you overcook them, you end up with a tender, juicy, braised-like piece of meat. And so, I offer two basic recipes for you, including a couple of nice little shortcuts.
The pictorial below is for a simple pasta dish of whole wheat penne with a light, creamy sauce with chicken thighs, asparagus, mushrooms and herbs. I’m not going to give measurements for the most part, because this is one of those dishes you just wing. It’s very simple to do.
Start with some boneless thighs. A pound is plenty for 2 hungry people or 3-4 regular eaters. Cut into cubes and set aside.
In a medium skillet, brown some chopped mushrooms, shallots and garlic in your fat/oil of choice. Once cooked, put these shrooms into a bowl.
Then brown the chicken. That’s not brown enough.
That’s more like it.
Deglaze the pan with whatever white wine you’re drinking that night.
Return chicken to the pan. Add some cream and chicken stock (or broth). Let cook for a few minutes.
Of course, you should have known that you’re supposed to be making pasta. Don’t blame me for not telling you that, but the water should be boiling, because you’re going to want to blanch some asparagus pieces in the pasta water while the pasta is cooking, using this handy little technique. Just blanch long enough for the asparagus to turn bright green.
When the pasta is cooked, drain it. Add the blanched asparagus and some chopped basil or other herbs to the creamy sauce. Toss the sauce with the pasta, and then serve with freshly grated hard cheese of your choice. Pecorino romano works very well, thank you very much.
Here’s an even simpler dish, where you don’t have to cut the thighs at all. Lightly brown the thighs in olive oil. Add some chopped garlic. Add a can of chopped tomatoes. Add some kale. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Add salt to taste. Serve over rice or pasta, with some crumbled goat cheese. It’s that easy, and it’s damn tasty, too.