Welcome to ingredient introduction: Redemption.
When asked what food I hate, I always would reply, “Chicken thighs!”
My partner in cuisine crime felt the same way. He hated them so much that I vowed to change his mind. About a year ago I made a dish with them. I was all excited. I thought for sure that I would be the one to change his thigh-hating-mind. We sat down to eat, took two bites, and went to McDonald’s. They were that bad. Really. I swear. So, I gave up.
I don’t even like my own thighs. They’re like tree trunks, and make buying suit pants pure hell. But, I digress.
Recently, though, we were at an Indian restaurant. Both of the dishes we ordered seemed to have dark meat chicken. My partner in cuisine crime even pointed out the fact that he thought the meat may be thighs.
Then it hit me.
The chicken thigh needs long, if not slow, cooking in flavorful sauce. It’s not a sauté or grill kind of meat.
For so long, I’ve heard celebrity chefs, especially the health-conscious ones, squawking about the thigh like it’s gold. That’s really because they’re high in protein, low in fat, and tend to be more moist than the breast. You want the skinless kind, otherwise there’s more fat and calories.
With a new found sense of determination, I bought a package of boneless, skinless thighs.
I wrapped them in the shopping bag and hid them in the back of the refrigerator so my partner in cuisine crime wouldn’t see them. I knew if he saw them, whatever I did with them would have an automatic poultry prejudice.
One morning before work, I set the slow cooker on the counter and got moving.
In order to really make this work I knew I needed a lot of flavor. Indian and Moroccan food are loaded with spices and often benefit from slow cooking. So that’s the route I went.
There’s a restaurant nearby called The Lazy Goat. It serves a dish called “Moroccan Lamb” and it will make you want to eat the bowl and the piece of table where it sat. It’s that good. I used that for inspiration.
Here’s what you need:
2 c chicken broth
1 c red wine (whatever kind you like)
1 can tomato paste
1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
1 tsp: cinnamon, ground cumin, ground ginger, garlic powder, white pepper, kosher salt
1/2 tsp: paprika, cayenne, ground all spice
1/4 tsp: ground cloves
Trim the fat from the thighs, then cut the meat into cubes.
In the slow cooker, combine the broth, red wine, and tomato paste. Mix with a whisk.
Add all the spices, stir.
Add the thighs and chickpeas. Stir.
Cover, and let it cook for about 10 hours.
We’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately, and we’re trying to cut back on carbs. I know. Don’t judge.
A dish like this, screams out, even begs for, a carby cot on which the chicken and sauce can bask in all its glory.
I had a head of cauliflower in the refrigerator. I’ve read about, “Cauliflower rice” on the web, but I didn’t buy into it. I mean, how good could it be? Well, when you’re desperate for a low-carb way to soak up a sauce, you’ll put that question to the test. It’s loaded with vitamin C and it has a good bit of fiber, so why not?
Yes, I’ve used it raw in salads and with dip, and I’ve even mashed it. But it’s always been a blah ingredient to me. So, it’s time for redemption.
Using a food processor with a shredding blade, process the florets of cauliflower.
You end up with these little cauliflower shavings. Transfer them to a dish and cover it (I used Press & Seal), then microwave it for 4 and ½ minutes. Do not add water to the dish before microwaving or you’ll end up with gummy “rice.”
I mean, I’m a chicken thigh believer now. I never thought I’d say (or write) that.
Before we ate, my partner in cuisine crime asked me about 10 times what kind of meat we were having. After assuring him it wasn’t cat, ostrich, or woolly mammoth, I told him I wouldn’t tell him till he tasted it.
He took a bite and did his signature, “MMMMMM,” which means he really likes it.
I told him he was eating chicken thighs, he paused, and said, “I’m sold.”
As for the “rice,” wow!
To me, it had a similar texture and flavor. Well, I mean, rice is pretty bland, but that’s a good thing in this case. You don’t want it to overpower the savory star of the dish. It didn’t have that typical cauliflower flavor to it. It soaked up the sauce perfectly. It’s a definite make-again.
How do you feel about chicken thighs? If you’re a lover, how do you make them?
I see an Indian or Italian slow-cooked meal in my future.
Now that I know the secret, I think there’s a thighly good chance that I won’t be chicken to eat that part of the poultry.
Tip: I topped the Moroccan chicken with a tzatziki-like sauce. I was out of Greek yogurt, but I had whipped cream cheese on hand. It worked!
¼ c whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
½ of a peeled/seeded cucumber
1 garlic clove
10 mint leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
In a bowl, grate the cucumber into the cream cheese, then grate in the garlic clove. Add the mint, salt and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
This sauce is light, bright, and cool. It’s a perfect addition to the spices in the chicken. If you have Greek yogurt, use that.