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December 17, 2008

The Exotic, Overlooked Chicken Thigh


Every cut from the chicken yearns for the spotlight. The breast, moist and juicy. The drumstick, with its child-friendly handle. The wing, long associated with beer and football.


There is one, however, that hangs back, enshrouded in mystery. It is the thigh.


Why does the thigh not seek the spotlight? That is part of the thigh’s way. It prefers to stay back, letting others push their way forward and giving the air of the exotic. It says that those who seek out its charms will have to devote more time and energy in unlocking them.


It should be of no surprise, then, that the thigh remains a largely undiscovered gem. The extra time required to cook gives you a meat that is rich in flavor.


You may cut down on that preparation time by slicing the thigh meat from the bone and removing as much fat as possible. What remains is a slab of meat like other slabs of meat. Deboned, it becomes the same as its less flavorful breast counterpart, kind of like a steak but one which tastes like chicken . . . or at least the more flavorful part of the chicken.


It is by deboning the thigh that you may apply thigh meat toward one of the most basic dishes in the kitchen – the bowl of pasta.


You will need to cut up the chicken thigh into bite-sized pieces, and begin to brown them. Unlike other meats, you will not need much oil to cook the thigh, for it gives off its own juices as it cooks. Just enough oil to keep the meat from searing to the bottom of the pan will do.


In this smear of oil, begin browning the chicken with some chopped onion and chopped garlic over a medium heat. Begin boiling some water on the stove.


Sauté until the chicken is cooked most of the way through, and add chunks of sweet red pepper and heat long enough for the pepper to soften and release some of its juices.


Once this is achieved, add some artichoke heart, chopped black olives, dried thyme and cut lengths of fresh asparagus. Salt and pepper to taste.


Cover and simmer. Meanwhile, cook some spaghetti noodles until al dente, which is usually about six to eight minutes.


Drain the noodles, but reserve a little of the pasta water in case the sauce is less a sauce and more a bunch of ingredients that have been cooked together and that have no external moistness.


Stir the spaghetti and sauce together, and mix in some crushed red pepper.


Put into a bowl, and if you look at it from a worm’s eye view, it will take on the appearance of a mountain. Yet, there is something missing.


Why yes, there is no snow on this peak. Add a dusting of grated parmesan cheese. Marvel at what you have created. It is an appropriate place for an overlooked, exotic food to call home.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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