Chicken Thighs

Juicier, cheaper and easier to cook than any other part of the bird, chicken thighs deserve much more attention. Instead of drying out like lean chicken breasts do, chicken thighs can stand up to high heat and reheating—making them great for leftovers or make-ahead meals. Plus, they're usually sold with the skin on, which makes for extra crispy flavor in your meal. Food & Wine helps you embrace this underappreciated ingredient with delicious recipes that will convert even the staunchest dark meat haters.

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Braised Chicken Thighs with Apricots and Green Olives

Too busy to braise on a weeknight? Maybe you should rethink your protein. A stovetop chicken braise is in regular rotation on my weeknight dinner table for several good reasons: it's relatively quick, it's nearly foolproof, it's endlessly adaptable, and who doesn't love tender, flavor-drenched chicken thighs bathed in a savory sauce? The basic technique is a valuable lesson in learning to manage your kitchen timeline. Sure, professional cooks—and many YouTube hosts—make a big deal out of preparing all their ingredients well before they start cooking. When cooking at home, however, it makes more sense to find ways to integrate the prep work into your actual cooking process. This not only speeds things up, but also it forces you to pay more attention to the process which in turn makes you a better and more efficient cook. It can also make the whole process more engaging and ultimately more fun. A classic chicken braise has three main elements: the chicken, the aromatics, and the liquid, and because these elements are added at various stages, you can stagger their preparation. For instance, the first step in my recipe below calls for browning the chicken thighs to develop a lovely dark sear and to render some of the fat, a task that takes about 10 minutes; but instead of just standing there watching the pan, I set up a cutting board next to the stove and use the time to slice the onion, since that's what gets added next. Then, once the chicken comes out of the pan, in goes the onion, and I use the onion-cooking time to slice the garlic and measure spices and liquids. Once those go in, I turn my attention to the lemon, apricots, and olives. The pace moves along quickly but not frantically, and if it ever gets away from me —or if the phone rings or the dog needs to be fed—I just switch off the heat and allow myself to catch up. At the end, there's a nice 30- to 35-minute window of hands-off quiet simmering that you can use to boil baby potatoes, rice, or egg noodles to accompany the braise—or just pour yourself a glass of wine and read the paper. The staggered process here is about more than just good time management; it's also a great lesson in building flavor into a dish. Browning the chicken pieces creates layers of meaty flavors, both on the chicken and on the bottom of the pan. It also creates delicious drippings that I use to sauté sliced onion until silky and infused with meaty flavor. Then I create a flavor base by stirring in some smoky pimentón (Spanish paprika). This gives the dish a rich, ruddy color and a hint of smoky sweetness that plays against the fruity apricots. I counterbalance the sweetness with bright lemon zest, crisp wine, and a handful of briny olives. If you've got ground coriander in the cupboard (or, better yet, whole seed that you grind yourself), it adds a faint hint of citrus to underscore the lemon, although the dish has plenty going on without it. Once you get the technique down, go ahead and tweak this recipe according to your appetite and what's in your refrigerator and pantry. For instance, consider supplementing the onion and garlic with other aromatic vegetables, like leeks, carrots, fennel, or cabbage, to make a heartier dish. Or maybe use canned tomatoes and/or chicken broth for the liquid. Or swap out the apricots for prunes, or leave out the dried fruit and double the amount of olives. You see where this is going. Taste, test, and play; it’s my favorite way to cook.
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Crispy Chicken Thighs over Melted Zucchini

As a cook, it takes a certain kind of confidence to keep things simple. When I was a food editor reviewing recipes submitted by staff or freelancers, I noticed that less-experienced cooks often had a hard time showing restraint. Ingredient lists were long, with superfluous touches that distracted from what should have been the star on the plate. As with so many things in life, the KISS principle—Keep It Simple, Stupid—is a good one to go by. It doesn’t always hold up, of course; special-occasion dishes might require more flourishes. But for weeknight cooking that makes you and your family happy, pucker up. That mantra is at play here in this one-pan chicken thigh recipe. The only seasonings are salt, pepper, and thyme—no kitchen-sink spice rubs or all-the-condiments dumps. And you know what? It’s delicious. That’s because it’s all about the chicken. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs start out in a skillet over medium heat so the fat slowly renders as the skin crisps up. And not one bit of that fat goes to waste; sweet onions and zucchini cook in it, soaking up all that good chicken-y flavor as they melt to an irresistibly silky texture. I’ll typically bring the skillet out to the table for everyone to serve themselves, and we’ll spoon the vegetables over brown rice or quinoa. Or I might set out some crusty bread to swipe through the drippings. For best results, seek out air-chilled chicken. Air chilling (as opposed to submerging chickens in water during processing) means flavors aren’t diluted, and the skin isn’t waterlogged—which translates to crispier results, the kind of chicken skin you dream about. (Or is it just me?) I use this technique as a template, swapping out veggies based on what’s in season. I always start the chicken as described here, then proceed with the onion, garlic, and thyme. But in place of zucchini (salted and drained to remove excess liquid), I might toss in torn kale, fresh corn kernels, cherry tomatoes, or—one of my fall favorites—red grapes. My kids adore every incarnation, and I attribute that to the buttery-soft texture of the onions. Well, and some chicken fat doesn’t hurt. Not one bit.
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Brothy Braised Chicken Thighs with Fennel and Pernod

April in the Hudson Valley is unpredictable. Yes, it’s technically spring, but I’ve seen snow this time of year more often than I want to think about. While much of the country has started enjoying warmer days, things here are still bleak, cold, and damp. It’s around this time that I find myself manically seeking out anything that’s not beige and dusty, pale orange, or named something fairylike such as a “Gilfeather,” which as lovely as it is to say, is still just a turnip—you can’t trick me! After months of braised pork shoulders, roasted root vegetables, baked pastas, and stews, I want dishes that offer comfort but aren’t necessarily heavy. Enter this brothy Pernod-braised chicken thigh recipe, which offers the satisfaction of a slow-cooked meal but comes together in about 45 minutes. Here, bone-in chicken thighs are browned then braised with fennel, leeks, and bit of Pernod, which intensify the snappy licorice-ness of the fennel. After braising the chicken thighs, the whole dish is finished with a showering of fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon for brightness. A hunk of good, crusty bread for sopping is all you need to round out this meal. I like to drink wine when I cook and when I eat (also, whenever I can) and thought a medium- to full-bodied Italian white would work well to sip on. Because there are florally, aromatic notes in the dish from the fennel and Pernod, I supposed that something on the drier end would be wise so the two don’t compete for attention. Because I do drink a fair amount of wine, I have a very good relationship with my gem of a local wine store Hudson Wine Merchants. I always ask their advice on wines and love hearing what they have to say, which I fully believe everyone should be doing. (Talk to the people at your local wine store. Trust me—you’ll learn so much!) Luckily they were in agreement with my parameters and pointed me toward a wine from Campania called Cantina di Lisandro Alabranno, which is made from 100% Fiano grapes. This bottle is bright and lively and has fresh but not aggressive acidity, which cuts nicely through the delicate richness of the braise. It’s like sipping on sunshine—and as I impatiently wait for spring to be sprung, this will have to tide me over. With the wine and this beautiful brothy, braise-y dish on my side, I think I might just make it.
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Slow-Cooker Burnt Honey Barbecue Chicken

When it’s so blazing hot outside that you can’t bear the thought of firing up the grill, this no-fuss slow-cooker barbecue chicken recipe will come to the rescue. A quick sear in a cast-iron skillet awakens the flavors of the herbs and spices and gives the chicken a nice crust that makes the finished barbecue taste more authentic. The real star here is the Burnt Honey Barbecue Sauce; added just before serving, it retains a distinct honey flavor that balances this tangy-sweet chicken perfectly. Combine this chicken with our Quick Red Cabbage Slaw on a Buttery Brioche Hamburger Bun to create our ultimate barbecue sandwich.
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Hot Chicken Tacos

At Goodnight Charlie’s, a honky-tonk bar in Houston run by master sommelier David Keck, chef Felipe Riccio’s crispy hot chicken tacos are the perfect snack to fuel late nights on the dance floor. Riccio likes to top them with spicy, chorizo-studded braised collards and bread-and-butter pickles. Use the best-quality corn tortillas you can find, such as those from Masienda brand.
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Piri Piri Chicken

Short wooden skewers are both the cooking vessel and the serving utensil for these fiery chicken skewers. This riff on the piri piri marinade balances the heat of fresh chiles with sweet bell pepper, garlic, and a splash of tangy red wine vinegar. Chicken thighs are the best way to go here—rich, dark meat holds up to the marinade and will stay moist. Slideshow: More Chicken Thigh Recipes
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More Chicken Thighs

Stir-Fried Chicken and Green Pepper with Cumin and Cilantro

The Flavor Matrix author James Briscione encourages cooks to look beyond traditional food and wine pairings. He goes back to very basics: the aromatic compounds that link ingredients (often in unexpected ways). Here he pairs the floral, grassy flavors of this stir-fry with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, also prized for its “greenness.” The wine’s long finish is also well suited to the chile heat in the dish.    Slideshow: More Chicken Thigh Recipes
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Braised Chicken Thighs with Apples and Wild Rice

Erick Harcey, one of Minneapolis’ most celebrated chefs, serves this braised chicken with his supreme riff on Rice-A-Roni. Tart Granny Smith apples and cider vinegar not only tenderize the chicken thighs but also act as the base for the incredible sauce. Slideshow: More Chicken Thigh Recipes
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Spicy Green Posole

This pozole from star chef Richard Blais gets amazing flavor from tomatillos, poblanos and jalapeños. Be sure to serve the fragrant chicken stew with all of the delicious garnishes suggested. Slideshow: More Tomatillo Recipes