Baked Chicken Thighs with Mustard and Herbs

America seems to have a love affair with the neutral flavor of chicken breasts.  I've complained before about how dry chicken breast can get, and the flavor is, quite frankly, boring.
*...this is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the dark side...

The answer is to eat chicken legs.  I love dark meat in poultry, and because of America's preference for white meat, you can get chicken legs, thighs, and drumsticks for a song if you wait for a sale at your local megamart.

But the most important thing is the flavor.  Dark meat has more fat than white meat, and that gives it two important advantages.  First, fat carries a lot of the flavor in meat, so more fat means more flavor.  Second, the fat makes it harder to overcook.  A chicken breast cooked above 165*F is dry and tasteless; a chicken leg doesn't start to get good until it hits 170*F, and can go as high as 185*F or 190*F before you're starting to overcook it.
*...that strong with the dark side...a domain of flavor it is.

This recipe is adapted from an article by Mark Bittman.  It was titled, appropriately enough, Crossing over to the Dark Side.  So...come, Join us on the dark side!
*...if only you knew the power of the dark side...
**OK, OK...just try this recipe.  I'll stop with the Star Wars quotes.

Recipe: Baked Chicken Thighs with Mustard and Herbs

Chicken thigh trimmed of excess fat and skin
  • 8 chicken thighs (or 4 legs cut into thigh and drumstick portions)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs (Japanese style bread crumbs)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1. Coat Chicken with Mustard: Preheat oven to 400*F. Trim any excess skin or fat from the chicken thighs, and put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle evenly with the salt, then toss with the mustard until evenly coated.

2. Bread Chicken: Put the panko, thyme and salt and pepper in a pie plate, and stir to combine. Press the chicken into the panko mix on both sides, shake off any excess, and transfer to a rack over a rimmed baking sheet.
*Or other roasting pan or baking dish. The chicken crisps up best if it's on a rack to hold it off the pan, but sometimes I just plop it down on the pan if I'm in a hurry and don't want to clean the rack.

3. Cook the chicken: Cook the chicken in the 400*F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You're looking for the bread crumb crust to be golden brown, and the chicken to have an internal temperature of at least 170*F.

4. Serve: Transfer to a serving platter, allow to cool down for 10 minutes, then serve.

*Herbs de provence shortcut: Sprinkle the chicken with 1 tsp herbs de provence before you coat it with the mustard, and skip the herbs in the panko.

*Different Herbs: Use 2 tsp of any minced fresh herb in the panko. In the original recipe, they use minced garlic and tarragon. I always have some fresh thyme lying around, so that's what I use.

*Spicy coating: Add 1/2 tsp of chipotle powder or cayenne pepper to the panko if you would like to spice up your chicken.

*Homemade bread crumbs: Pulse 3 slices of sandwich bread in a food processor until it's chopped into crumb sizes. Add one tablespoon of olive oil, and pulse to thoroughly combine.

*Don't use bread crumbs from a can.  Use panko or fresh bread crumbs. Personally, I prefer the crunch you get with the panko.

*OK, if you insist, you can use chicken breasts.  Cook them on the bone, skin on, and make sure you get them out of the oven at an internal temperature between 160*F and 165*F, or they'll dry out.

*If your thighs are done (over 170*F) but your panko isn't golden brown, you can run them under the broiler for a minute.  But be careful!  Bread goes from browned to burnt in a flash.  Make sure you keep an eye on them.

*....You don't know the power of the dark side... oh, right, sorry.  I said I would stop, didn't I.

Questions? Comments? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Sear-Roasted Chicken Pieces with Quick Lemon Pan Sauce
Leftover chicken?  Use it in White Chicken Chili the Easy Way

Adapted from:
Mark Bittman (and Gary Danko): Crossing Over to the Dark Side []

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A Year on the Grill said...

BAKED??? What happened to the grill???

And absolutely about the breast meat...same with over rated turkey white meat.

Erin from Long Island said...

I am SO with you on the dark meat! I really never buy breasts anymore. Brining helps, but I still feel the meat doesn't taste like anything. I am certainly going to try this now that it is too cold to grill!!

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