Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Help Us Help Ourselves: Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Garlic

Lauren has this project* that I'll let her describe:

HUHO (since I am too uncreative to think up a better name): This compilation of how-tos, written by you and me, aims to help people with little in the way of resources and expertise get through unfortunate situations relating to money, finances, and bureaucracy.

It will be an open-source document, likely a Word doc wiki?, that can be edited and added to as the contributors see fit. Not only do I want it to include our stories, but I want it to include details, specifics, the steps in the process, what one can expect, what hurdles one may come against, and suggestions for how to get around them. This should be a pragmatic resource that takes a person in need through all the steps and details of the situation at hand.

As you should be able to tell from the description above, it isn't just a recipe collection--read the whole thing and see if there isn't some other area in which you have expertise you could offer.

But me, I got chicken thighs. And lemon. And garlic. And a recipe I got out of a $5 bargain cookbook at Barnes & Noble. And that's my first bit of advice: Don't shun the $5 bargain cookbooks! I make more stuff out of the bargain cookbooks than I've ever made from books by celebrity chefs.

Here is what I know about the chicken thighs and the lemon and the garlic: It is cheap. It is unbelievably tasty. It scales up or down nicely, but I wouldn't suggest scaling it down because it also is delicious left over. Cold or hot, doesn't matter.

The negatives: It is not a quick recipe, and it is not low-fat. People concerned about the fat content should consider skinning the thighs before cooking and perhaps using a defatted chicken stock. Me, I have to confess I don't really give a shit, because if it isn't one thing killing you these days it's another. Let's eat.


8 chicken thighs
20 [that is not a typo] cloves garlic
1 lemon
2-1/2 cups chicken stock*
5-6 ounces of cheap white wine--a wine glass full--OR 4 ounces apple juice plus the juice of 1 lemon
2-4 tablespoons flour
1-2 tablespoons oil

*Note about the chicken stock: The cheapest way to procure 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock is to make it yourself with the carcass of a roast chicken. But who has time for this? I find stock-making incredibly tedious. So the second-cheapest way to procure 2-1/2 cups of chicken stock is to cheat, by dissolving the flavoring packet from a package of chicken-flavored ramen in 2-1/2 cups of boiling water. Yes, I really just typed that. You're going to infuse the stuff with a boatload of garlic anyway, so it doesn't matter. And the third-cheapest way to get chicken stock is to buy bouillon cubes when they're on sale and keep those around.

Peel 20 cloves of garlic by whacking each clove with a knife to loosen the peel first. Chuck the peeled cloves into your 2-1/2 cups chicken stock which you then heat on the stove to a nice simmer. Cover loosely and simmer 40 minutes. I told you this wasn't a quick recipe.

In a big ol' pan that is preferably NOT non-stick, brown up, with a tablespoon or two of oil, your chicken thighs. Salt and pepper 'em, and paprika's good on them, too. Beyond that they don't need much. The flavor's going to be in the sauce.

Turn on your oven to 375.

When the thighs are browned nicely (they need not be cooked through), remove them to an oblong casserole dish.

Leave the pan you fried 'em in on medium-low heat. Into that same frying pan, sprinkle 2-4 tablespoons of flour and stir it into the pan drippings, which I hope you did not drain off. Whether you use only 2 tablespoons of flour, or 3, or 4 is going to depend on what's in the pan. If you skinned the thighs before browning, you will have less fat in the pan and may only need 2 tablespoons of flour. What you are aiming for here is equal parts fat and flour.

Now chuck in EITHER the wine OR the apple/lemon juice combo and stir with the flour and fat mixture, scraping the pan really well.

And now you can strain your 2-1/2 cups garlicked chicken stock into the frying pan, blending with the flour, the fat, and the wine. It will go together more smoothly than you may think it will, honest; if you blended the fat and flour well to begin with, you will have no lumps at all. Lower the heat on the pan to, uh, low, and turn your attention to the casserole dish of chicken thighs, over which you will place:

1. The garlic cloves you strained out of the stock, and
2. One peeled, sliced lemon.

And over all this, pour the sauce. Cover the casserole with foil or a lid, and slide it into the oven, where it will remain for 40 minutes.

Forty minutes turns out to be exactly how long it takes me to make rice in the cheap electric steamer I've got, so that's what I serve this with, because it's tough to get cheaper than rice. Green beans also go well. In any case I usally keep the veggies and starches very simple, because what comes out of that oven 40 minutes later is some fantastically rich and delicious chicken, in a sauce you could pour over damn near anything, except maybe chocolate cake.


This would all go much faster if you infused the garlic into the stock the day before, but I never remember to do this. And about that garlic: 20 cloves sounds excessive, but the flavor in this dish is not overwhelmingly garlicky, so if overly garlicked food normally puts you off, give it a chance first.


Because I can usually count on the local Grocery Chain putting enormous packs of chicken thighs on sale for $0.99 a pound. These usually contain between 14-16 chicken thighs which means I can make this dish twice if I want to. And I usually want to, because what the hell else do you do with a bunch of chicken thighs?

Lemons are cheap.

Garlic they're practically giving away.

And chicken stock is either free (if you made your own), super-cheap (if you use the ramen noodles trick), or fairly cheap (if you use canned or bouillon you bought on sale). Really, the most expensive thing in this is the wine (or the apple juice, if you use that), and whichever you use, you aren't using much.

*Some of you who cook better than I do need to check it out, because I'm certain you could contribute a recipe or two.

Helen, I am thinking that potato gratin particularly could be adapted for lower income brackets, but that may just be because I'm a little in love with the look of that potato gratin. I'm telling you, it totally wants me.


gennimcmahon said...

Chicken thighs are always cheaper than chicken tits, this is for certain (and you can buy 'em skinned and boneless, too). Sounds like for once, I know what's for dinner next week....I'm going to write a cookbook soon titled, "How To Cook For Children Who Are Allergic To Milk And Picky As All Shit To Boot." So far, there's one recipe that fits the bill....gonna be a long winter.

Rob said...

We loves chicken thighs. We loves garlic. This is one we'll try. I buy the boneless, skinless thighs at Sam's because, well, I'm lazy. Normally, I love nice crisp chicken skin, too, but only if someone else is cooking it.

Anonymous said...

Happy to help, but not sure how to send things over? I read on her site something about a wiki, and as far as I'm concerned, if that's not a drink with a plastic umbrella I have no idea how to contribute recipes (will also help with that abusive relationship thing because, you know, I can)....


CTG said...

to "cheap" the gratin without sacrificing too much flavor, use swiss or jack cheese instead of fontina, and fry some mushrooms in place of the artichoke hearts. Alternatively, the AH's are cheap in the freezer section of Trader Joes, or in a can (rather than a jar or marinated). Potatoes? Ass cheap.

ilyka said...

Helen, don't worry about the wiki nonsense. (I will get in trouble for saying so, but personally I thought it was very rude for people to ask a woman with two jobs plus freelance work to assemble a damn wiki. Note to the internets: When someone comes up with a good project idea, do not as your first order of business assign them more work.)

Just do up a post and track it back to the one of Lauren's I linked here (I just realized I forgot to do this myself). How it all looks in the end will be sorted out later, I expect.

Rob: I've bought the boneless/skinless thighs myself when they're on sale--we like dark meat better than white and they're still cheaper than breasts, so we chuck them into any recipe calling for chunked-up chicken breasts. They go great in stir-frys. But if you're using them here I am wondering whether maybe they'll need less time in the oven? Maybe 25-30 minutes instead of 40? The sauce should protect them from getting dried out regardless, though.

CTG: Mushrooms, why didn't I think of mushrooms??? I buy the artichoke hearts when they're on sale here, but we don't have a Trader Joe's so it's not often I can get them at a price that makes it worthwhile.

I'm also thinking I could Southwesternize it with chopped mild green chile. Now THOSE I can get for cheap by roasting my own.

belledame222 said...

I'm a thigh girl myself.

that recipe sounds yum.

spaghetti with lemons and garlic and--ideally olive oil, otherwise whatever other oil/fat you have on hand, just a drop, maybe even a bit of bacon?--is tasty, too.

ilyka said...

Spaghetti aglio e olio never disappoints. In fact my main complaint with it is that I eat too much of it when I make it. With lemons and a little bacon or pancetta I might get into real trouble!

Erica said...

I just made these. Holy shit, that's good. I could stand over the counter with a spoon and slurp up that sauce. Thanks for sharing.

cheech said...

I just read the lemon chicken thigh recipe, looks awesome. FYI in my experience, if you are roasting chicken in the oven with wine and stock in the bottom of the pan, you can throw in about 20-40 garlic cloves - raw - and they will totally infuse the 'sauce' and be very yummy. Might make your kick ass recipe a bit quicker.