Monday, 30 March 2009

Of breasts and thighs

Aren't I naughty ;)?

I'm talking poultry today, because I had a revelation over the weekend.

The chicken breast: much maligned by foodies, the dieter's cut when boneless and skinless, the safe order in restaurants, etc.
The chicken thigh: much praised by foodies, the dieter's nightmare no matter what, the rarely seen option in restaurants unless you just see 'chicken' listed at your local cheap places.

I love chicken. But I always thought I loved the breasts way more than the thighs. Sure, they were slightly dry plain, but they were also predictably acceptable tasting steady protein sources whether you were at a Chinese, Indian, French, or Aghani restaurant. And when one is trying to CRON and have some semblance of a social life, being familiar with a good protein source/relatively low calorie item is a real plus.

And chicken breasts are not bad. Roast chicken breast will never be derided from this corner. But I fear my affections have indeed shifted to the dark side.

Now, to be fair to the thigh, I never did give it a chance before. The few times I cooked it when I was younger, I tried to cook it like a chicken breast and it just seemed too fatty and weirdly gristly. And while I love pork fat on a nice pork chop, I've never warmed to chicken fat on the bone.

But lately, I've come to appreciate the thigh. It's always cheaper than the breast, and has a deeper, more nuanced flavour. It is more reliably juicy. And calorie wise, the difference is not that significant at all (1.7 cal/g vs. 1.8 cal/g).

The trick with cooking a thigh at home, to my mind, is to realize you can be a little rougher with it. Breasts require attention so that they don't dry out. Thighs need less TLC and can still be delicious. I really like to braise skinless or skin on chicken thighs (depending on my audience) with canned tomatoes and big hunks of onion on the stove in a Dutch oven for 45 min-1 hour.

I keep trying to convince my friends to give the thigh a chance, but I think the bias against dark meat runs deep. On the other hand, why should I encourage them when their rejection just means there'll be more for me :)?


Matthew C. Baldwin said...

I just had Chicken thighs for dinner tonight! They are clearly the superior cut. How else can you get 2 pounds of delicious meat for about $3.85?

I salt them and put them plain in an open braising pan at 400 for an hour, and let them get super crispy outside, while inside they loosen up nicely.

Then, if I want, I either add things to them (like water and veggies) and cover, or add them to a slowly braising veggie dish, with things like onions, carrots, mushrooms, turnips, parsnips, tomatoes, etc.

Love the thigh!

Anonymous said...

Nothing beats chicken falling off the bone in a tomato stew and what is better is when you can see all that chicken fat floating on the surface and you just know its gonna taste sooooooo good. I had chicken tonight yay. But chicken legs.

MrsEvilGenius said...

LOL, it seems last night was chicken night! We had chicken as well.

I also love the thigh, but truthfully, will eat any part of the chicken happily. I stood at the stove last night and ate the meat, fat and organs off of the chicken back!

I like to broil my chicken. I put it in a pan w/ some bacon grease and slip a pat of butter under the skin on each piece then Broil at 450 until they are super crispy outside!

Marc said...

I'm a thigh man all the way! ;-)

Check out my post about my accidental marinade.
I love love love grilling thighs.
Costco sells huge packs of coleman organic boneless skinless thighs.

I especially like this marinade.
dark rum, tamari, evoo, lemon juice and lots of crushed garlic.
The thighs take very very well to this.

Glad your posting again ;-)


Lady Rois said...

I'm all for getting the boneless/skinless thighs (still cheaper than the chicken b00bs ;) and using them in a chicken crock pot recipe - they hold up amaizingly well and get better, rather than dried and even more bland...

hmmm... may have to grab some at the store soon!!

Cave Cooking said...

Matt--I am stealing your technique for dinner tonight!

Darwinstable--hey, the legs are tasty too, and I love how they have all those perfect bite sized pieces.

MrsEvilGenius--mmm, you had me at bacon grease. And who doesn't love chicken liver? Good stuff.

Marc--rum AND tamari? Say no more!

LadyRois--don't you love it when things are cheap AND tasty?

Chavo said...

Another great combo is thighs or full on legs (skins on please!) in a covered iron pan in the oven with garlic and sliced green apples...

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