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


7 comments:

andrew rosenberg said...

chicken thigh meat like pork shoulder has that embedded fat that keeps it moist when you grill. they also 'hold together' if you care to stew or braise

s said...

Mmm, I love thighs too. I was never a dark meat person, and remember distinctly a college roomate's BF grilling boneless thighs with BBQ sauce, and it was a revelation. This sounds even more fantastic ;)

Kate said...

Off topic again, but would you share the breeder of your Griffs? We are looking for a reputable breeder and I think your dogs are lovely.

Trout Caviar said...

Andrew, wait 'til you see the whole pork shoulder I smoke-roasted, basted with hard cider and a little maple syrup, for a Mother's Day gathering.

Sara, aren't you glad you had your eyes opened to the wonder of the thighs! I love that you can cook the hell out of them, and they never really dry out--the smoke/grill flavor is so good on them.

Kate, send me a note at brettlaidlaw@eckmeier.com .

Thanks for writing, everyone~ Brett

Gloria Goodwin Raheja said...

We made this tonight, and we thought it was the best grilled chicken dish we've ever had. At the last minute I realized that I had no sambal oelek in the fridge, all I had was some Thai red chili paste with too many other ingredients in it. So I pounded two Thai chilies in my mortar and pestle and that worked out well as a substitute. Anyway, thanks for the lovely recipe, we'll definitely make it again, and it's one of those recipes that is going to make us long for ramps when ramps are not in season.

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Gloria: Wow, that is great to hear. I'm delighted that it worked out so well for you, and good resourcefulness subbing the Thai chilies for the sambal. In summer I'll often use roasted fresh hot chilies where I'd reach for the sambal in the winter.

You can extend your ramp season by pickling a couple jars. You can use the pickled ones just as you would the fresh, and while the flavor is somewhat different from fresh, that distinctive ramp flavor survives the processing. I'll usually chop the pickled ones and rinse them a couple times, then carry on as with fresh.

I do believe you'll find a pickled ramp recipe here if you click on the "ramps" tag of post labels.

Thanks for writing~ Brett

Trout Caviar said...

Hi Gloria: Wow, that is great to hear. I'm delighted that it worked out so well for you, and good resourcefulness subbing the Thai chilies for the sambal. In summer I'll often use roasted fresh hot chilies where I'd reach for the sambal in the winter.

You can extend your ramp season by pickling a couple jars. You can use the pickled ones just as you would the fresh, and while the flavor is somewhat different from fresh, that distinctive ramp flavor survives the processing. I'll usually chop the pickled ones and rinse them a couple times, then carry on as with fresh.

I do believe you'll find a pickled ramp recipe here if you click on the "ramps" tag of post labels.

Thanks for writing~ Brett