Chicken Thighmaster — A Pictorial

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.

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14 Responses to Chicken Thighmaster — A Pictorial

  1. John Pope says:

    Yeah, but it’s hardly difficult to bone a chicken thigh, with a sharp knife and a little bit of practice anyone can do it.
    There are also the facts that chicken sold on the bone, whether breast or thigh is virtually always cheaper than boneless, and that virtually any meat tastes better when it’s been on the bone for as long as possible, and ideally cooked on the bone.
    Just my opinions, of course

  2. Varmint says:

    All very valid opinions, of course, but the focus of this piece is finding a fairly straightforward alternative to the god-awful boneless breast.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ok, so what you do, is this (I hope no one in NOLA reads this thing. I hate it when they run out).

    On Friday evenings, the meat guys at whole foods cut up all of those crazy expensive fryers and part them out. They put them in the little cooler, usually to the right of the meat counter (at least it is here and in DC) and they are really, really cheap. Sometimes as low as 2.25. I usually buy a pile, repack and freeze them. I never, ever buy white meat? What’s the point? It would be like buying pie or something. A total waste. I like to cook them down in a very simple fricasee, kinda like a gumbo with no roux. I just lightly flour them, brown them, then cook down the trinity, add some stock, add some decent tomatoes, spices, and go back to work. A couple of hours late, voila!, you have a killer meal suitable for pasta or rice or biscuits or cornbread or whatever. Plus, you can make a ton and freeze it. It’s already moosh, so who cares if it’s been frozen.

    Boneless, skinless breasts are kinda the tofu of poultry. I mean, sure, you can eat it and all, but it’s just going to taste like (or not even as good) as what you cook it with.

  4. “loves the ubiquitous breast because they’re easy”

    Also because they’re ‘pretty’.

    So, wow, I hate to seem completely ignorant but I have never seen the boneless thighs. I PREFER thighs, but since I try not to buy anything that isn’t frozen I couldn’t sit and wait for my thighs to thaw for me to debone them. How have I missed these??

  5. phoebe says:

    funny: i usually get my birds whole. tonight i got just thighs; boned, yogurt marinaded and oven roasted. when my sweetie asked for seconds and an additional thigh appeared on his plate, he asked, ” the chicken had three thighs???”

  6. quazi says:

    and they are truly great on the grill. will not dry out and you can slide the boneless ones on skewers for kabobs. I only buy thighs, though I prefer bone-in or whole chicks

  7. I too am a lover of the chicken thigh! The breast meat, at least for me is dry and often flavorless, may as well be shoe leather for all I know.

    By the way, that basil looked eerily familiar.

  8. Em says:

    I love thighs! I have always had friends look at me sideways for liking the dark meat better – but really – it has all the flavor! I really hate the way breasts can get dried out so quickly, and need so much more added to them to make them great. The recipes you have posted look delish!

  9. John Pope says:

    For anyone who suffers from dry breasts, I’ve just posted the way to cook lovely moist chicken breasts on my blog.

  10. Joe says:

    Love your thoughts on the thigh meat. I too have been using that juicy dark and oh so sweet meat to flavor many dishes. I never really looked toward them until I started to see them boneless and skinless. Your pasta pic is killa too.

  11. Chad says:

    Dean, I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but the chicken, mushroom & asparagus dish has become one of my wife’s favorites. By request, I’m making it again tonight. Thanks for the recipe.

  12. Varmint says:

    You’re welcome, Chad. My kids call braised thighs “stringy chicken” and it’s become their favorite dish. I made enough for 8 people last night, and the entire meal cost me about 10 bucks, including 4 pounds of thighs plus potatoes, carrots and peas.

  13. VaNC says:

    Have you posted the recipe for stringy chicken or is it this one with the cream? I am off cream based dishes these days, but, as you know, always looking for good recipes that the kids will eat.

  14. Varmint says:

    I have not posted a recipe, but it’s crazy simple. Brown thighs in a skillet. Remove and add onions and later garlic. Deglaze pan with wine or vermouth. Red or white on the wine, your pick. Add chicken stock. Return thighs to skillet and add additional stock so that it comes up 2/3 of the way to the top of the thighs. Cover and cook on low for an hour or so. Add lots of potatoes and carrots and vegetables to skillet, cover, and cook on medium low for about 1/2 an hour or until veggies are done. You may want to stagger the vegetable additions so you don’t overcook delicate ones.

    This is essentially a version of chicken pot roast. It’s very, very easy and kid friendly.

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