Friday, May 6, 2011
The Thighs Have It
In terms of underappreciated, tasty bargain meats, chicken thighs are right there with pork shoulder steaks, in my opinion. The thigh is my preferred part of the bird, though I fully appreciate the wing thing, too. Chicken wings prepared in a Sichuan dry-fried manner are an exquisite treat. The thighs, though, are more accommodating in a knife-and-fork meal context, and when they are boneless, why, they make positively civilized eating--cooking them over nice smoky hardwood coals keeps them on the rustic side.
Ramps season is starting as the maple season ends, and I often wind up putting the two together, frequently on chicken. This is a flavorful, simple dish to celebrate the return of grilling weather (well, comfortable grilling weather; we cook over the coals year-round).
A paillard is a flattened out piece of meat. I wail away at my thighs with the side of a heavy cleaver--a meat mallet, or even a small sauté pan will get the job done.
Maple-Ramp Marinated Chicken Paillards
Serves two to three
4 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
½ cup chopped ramps, whites and greens
Juice of ¼ lemon, and some zest, if you like
2 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon sambal oelek chili paste (or more, to taste)
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Purchase boneless skin-on chicken thighs, or bone them yourself. Place one thigh at a time on a cutting board, and with a meat mallet, the side of a heavy cleaver, or a small, clean saucepan, pound each thigh vigorously until the meat is about ½ inch thick—the surface area of the thighs should nearly double.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the chicken, coating it well on all sides. Let the chicken marinate for at least 60 minutes at room temp, or longer in the fridge. When you’re ready to cook, prepare a fire of natural wood coals, and grill the chicken over medium-hot coals, turning often, for 12 to 15 minutes total. The chicken should be very well browned on both sides.
If you have extra ramps, toss a few in what remains of the marinade, and grill them along with the chicken.
Text and photo copyright 2011 by Brett Laidlaw