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This meaty chicken recipe has mass appeal

  • NEW YORK TIMES PHOTO

Jack Sprat may eat no fat, but I wonder how he’d weigh in on boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Unlike the rich, sinewy flesh of the drumstick or wing — of which I doubt he’d approve — boneless, skinless thighs provide unbroken expanses of smooth, texturally unchallenging meat. While not quite as lean as chicken breasts, thighs are nearly as delicate, and just as easy to eat with a knife and fork — no gnawing or fingers required.

In our house, boneless thighs are a staple because everyone, from my Jack Sprat of a child to my fat-and-gristle-loving self, can agree on their deliciousness. They’re also weeknight friendly, cooking more quickly than their bone-in counterparts. And, unlike persnickety boneless breast meat, thighs are not prone to drying out.

You can season boneless thighs with practically any spices, herbs and aromatics. Just be generous; their dark meat can take loads of flavor (and don’t stint on the salt).

Here, I slathered them with a mix of grated garlic, thyme — you could also use oregano — and red-pepper flakes before roasting. Feel free to embellish, throwing in a pinch or two of your favorite spice, a dash of a beloved condiment, more herbs; anything you think might taste good probably will.

I’ve also scattered some lemon wedges into the roasting pan. As the lemons cook, darkening at the edges, their acids mellow, becoming softer and sweeter. When squeezed over the chicken just before serving, the roasted lemons’ juices lend a more rounded, gentle bite compared with fresh citrus.

I wanted to mute some of the lemon’s intense sourness, so I could add another bright, tangy element to the plate: a dollop of garlicky, cucumber-flecked yogurt.

Cucumber and yogurt is a classic pairing across many cultures, from Indian raita to Persian mast-o khiar to Greek tzatziki and beyond. For this iteration, it’s important to use strained yogurt, such as Greek yogurt, labneh or Icelandic skyr. The grated cucumber inevitably releases liquid as it sits, so the thicker the yogurt is to start out with, the creamier and less runny the final sauce will be.

Full-fat yogurt will give you the richest result. But low-fat or nonfat yogurt would also work perfectly well — and perhaps even better when Jack Sprat comes to dine.

Roasted Chicken Thighs With Garlicky Cucumber Yogurt

Ingredients:

• 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• 4 garlic cloves, finely grated, minced or passed through a press

• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme or oregano leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano

• Large pinch of red pepper flakes, plus more for serving

• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

• 1 lemon, cut lengthwise into thin wedges

• 1/2 cup plain Greek or other strained, thick yogurt (or substitute labneh or sour cream)

• 1/2 cup grated seedless cucumber, such as Persian or hothouse cucumbers (see Tip)

• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (or use parsley or cilantro), for serving

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Season chicken generously with the salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine 3 of the grated garlic cloves, thyme or oregano, red-pepper flakes and olive oil. Add chicken and lemon wedges, and toss until well coated. (If you want to work ahead, you can refrigerate the chicken for up to 12 hours before roasting.)

Arrange chicken and lemons on a sheet pan in a single layer. Drizzle with a little more oil and roast until chicken is cooked through, 27 to 35 minutes. If you’d like more color on your chicken, run the pan under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes until chicken is lightly charred in places.

As the chicken roasts, stir together yogurt, grated cucumber and remaining minced garlic clove in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

To serve, squeeze roasted lemon wedges all over chicken, and sprinkle with mint and more red-pepper flakes, if you like. Serve chicken accompanied by cucumber-yogurt sauce and a drizzle of olive oil over everything.

Total time: 40 minutes, serves 4-6.

Tip:

If you are starting with seeded cucumbers, halve them lengthwise, then use a spoon to scrape out the seeds before grating.

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