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For a long time, the only parts of a chicken that held my interest were the legs, wings and breasts — I was never much of a thigh guy. Lately, though, I decided to embrace them and have begun looking around for different ways to cook them.
Surprisingly, they have the best flavor and tend to stay juicy even if you overcook them. Full of flavorful dark meat, they are much cheaper than those top-dollar skinless chicken breasts.
Looking through my numerous cookbooks, I found a recipe where you brown the thighs in a mixture of olive oil, butter, pancetta and sprigs of rosemary and thyme. Then, you add a little white wine, cook everything for about 40 minutes, and then spend another 10 minutes stirring in a mixture of vinegar, anchovies, garlic and roasted peppers. Though this dish sounded great, it just seemed like a little too much work if all I ended up with was a plate of chicken thighs!
I finally found a chicken thigh recipe that my wife and I both love. It combines the flavors of fresh oranges, chile flakes and rosemary with some roasted thighs, red potatoes and onion slices. During cooking, the trick is to keep basting the seasoned thighs with the pan juices and to keep stirring the potatoes until they are crisp.
After roasting for about 20 minutes, I opened the oven door to begin basting. That’s when the aroma of the rosemary, chicken and the citrus scent of the oranges permeated the room. In the finished dish, the potatoes picked up the flavor of the rosemary; the chicken skin was crisp; the meat tender and the addition of the oranges and minced rosemary was outstanding.
Roasted Chicken Thighs with Red Potatoes, Oranges and Rosemary
Basting this chicken dish frequently will enhance the flavor and help to crisp the chicken.
8 chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat and skin
2-3 navel oranges
3 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt, more as needed
1/2 tsp. dried chile flakes
8 baby, red potatoes, halved
2 medium red onions, sliced into rings
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp. minced rosemary
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Finely grate 1 tsp. of orange zest. Stir the zest, oil, 1/2 tsp. of salt and the chile flakes together in a small bowl.
On one end of a large (11-inch-by-17-inch) baking dish, toss one tablespoon of the oil mixture with the potatoes, onions and one sprig of rosemary; separate the onions into rings and spread the onions and potatoes into a single layer. At the other end of the baking dish, arrange the chicken, skin-side up and brush with the remaining oil mixture. Tuck a few rosemary sprigs between the thighs; lightly sprinkle thighs and vegetables with salt.
Roast for 20 minutes. Baste the chicken with the pan drippings; stir potatoes and onions. Continue to roast, stirring and basting, until the chicken skin looks crisp and the potatoes are lightly browned in spots, about 30 additional minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the oranges, removing the pith and membrane. Slice crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, and then chop into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding the thick center membranes. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 1/4 tsp. of the minced rosemary.
Once chicken is done, remove rosemary sprigs. Transfer potatoes and onions to a serving bowl; stir in the remaining 1/2 tsp. of minced rosemary. Baste the chicken and transfer to a serving platter. Top with the orange mixture; serve hot. Makes 4 servings.
Grilled Curried Chicken Thighs
8 chicken thighs
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat grill. Combine butter, onion, garlic and curry powder; mix well. Coat chicken thighs with olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place about 1 tablespoon of the curry butter mixture under the skin of each chicken thigh, and then place the chicken on a hot grill, skin-side up ( I place a sheet of aluminum foil on the grill to help prevent sticking). Grill over medium heat (350 degrees), turning occasionally, until done, about 25-30 minutes total. Makes 4 servings.
Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
8 chicken thighs, remove skin
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsps. ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger root
1 (20 oz.) can pineapple tidbits, drained, reserve juice
2 Tbsps. cornstarch
4 cups cooked, long-grain rice
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook chicken thighs until evenly browned on all sides. Place thighs in a slow cooker.
In a small bowl, mix honey, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic, ginger and reserved pineapple juice. Pour into the slow cooker; cover and cook on High for at least 6 hours. Remove thighs from slow cooker and place over cooked rice on a large serving plate.
Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl. Blend the cornstarch mixture into the remaining sauce in the slow cooker to thicken. Stir in pineapple tidbits. Serve sauce over the chicken and rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
An easy and flavorful dish, although it takes about an hour and a half from start to finish.
4-6 chicken thighs and legs (in combination)
2 onions, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 lb. carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
3 Tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsps. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. honey
Remove any excess skin from the chicken pieces. Place the meat, one chopped onion, garlic, ginger, pepper, salt and oil in a wide saucepan. Add enough water to just cover, and then put on a lid, bring to the boil and slowly simmer.
After 45 minutes, or when the meat is almost cooked, add the remaining chopped onion, carrots, half each of the parsley and cilantro, and the honey. Stir and continue simmering uncovered for 30-40 minutes more until the liquid is reduced to a thick sauce.
Stir in a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Cover and cook for additional 5 minutes on low heat. Sprinkle with parsley and cilantro and serve hot. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.