Turn to the dark side: Switch from breasts to bone-in thighs and legs for richer eating
For better flavor and value, choose dark meat instead of white when shopping for chicken.
If your relationship with chicken began with nuggets and stalled amid the supermarket's plastic-sealed trays of skinless/boneless breasts, we've got a bone to pick with you.
GRILLED CHICKEN WITH LEMON, MINT AND SOY
Note: Adapted from Hugh Acheson's book, “A New Turn in the South: Southern Flavors Reinvented for Your Kitchen” (Clarkson Potter, $35).
Prep: 10 minutesCook: 40 minutesServings: 6
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons each: Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup each, minced: fresh mint, fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 to 4 pounds chicken thighs and legs (about 6 medium pieces)
Per serving: 490 calories, 37 g fat, 8 g saturated fat, 209 mg cholesterol, 3 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 1,293 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
It's time to give bone-in chicken a chance, from the whole bird to the especially flavorful (and often less pricey) legs and thighs.
“The dark meat is the way poultry should really taste. It just evokes that beautiful flavor,” says chef Hugh Acheson, who has several Georgia restaurants including Five and Ten and Empire State South.
Acheson, a cookbook author and Bravo “Top Chef” judge, understands the low-fat benefits of boneless, skinless chicken breast. “But everything in moderation. I want to equate my life to eating the most flavor I can, and flavor is really found in the dark meat.
“I have a family of four,” he adds. “If I take four good chicken thighs and fry them or roast them in the oven really simply in a cast-iron pan and serve it with a bunch of sides, that's enough protein for us. … That small amount of beautiful dark meat protein is definitely going to be a good meal.”
And you'll often find bone-in thighs and legs are juicier than way-too-dry white meat.
At Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach, Fla., executive chef Jeff McInnis offers free-range chickens and Poulet Rouge birds from North Carolina. He favors bone-in poultry. “The meat is going to be richer and taste more like the bird,” he says. “The bone is sort of like an insulator (that) keeps some of the juices in. That's what keeps a lot of the flavor in.”
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