When it comes to chicken there are fans who prefer dark meat versus those who prefer light. I like both, but when I am making cutlets, I opt for dark every time because the meat has much more flavor than its white cousin.
Fortunately for us we can buy chicken thighs prepared in all sorts of ways: Bone-in with skin on, boneless with skin on, and skinless and boneless, the most naked of the bunch. When you open up a boneless thigh, and examine the side that had been wrapped around the bone, it looks like a mess of tangled flesh and fat. All you need do at this point is remove any large clumps of fat. Leave any other fat alone. It will melt and baste the meat during cooking and add a lot of flavor to the sauce.
To make sure the thighs cook evenly, pound them gently to an even thickness— about 1/3-inch — between sheets of parchment or wax paper. If you don’t have a meat pounder, any heavy bottle will do. I often use the side of a wine bottle.
The sauce for these thighs packs a lot of flavor from good mustard, capers, onions, fresh herbs, and a bit of vinegar. In the recipe I say to use 3 to 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard. Adjust the amount according to your taste by adding more or less.
Any sides you serve with the chicken should complement the dish. Carrots, chard, Brussels sprouts, broiled tomatoes, garlic kale, winter squash, rice, potatoes, quinoa, are all good choices.
And the dish tastes even better reheated the next day.
Chicken thighs in mustard caper sauce
Makes 6 servings
You can make this dish ahead of time and reheat it slowly in the oven. If made a day ahead, the flavors deepen. For best results, use real French Dijon mustard. And be sure to drain the brined capers well before tossing them into the pan.
6 large boneless and skinless chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds total)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, as needed
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1/2 of a medium red onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
3 to 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon capers in brine, drained well
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
Lemon juice, if needed
Open up the chicken thighs so that they lie flat. Remove any large gobs of fat. Place chicken between sheets of parchment or wax paper and flatten slightly so that they are about 1/3-inch thick all over. Season both sides lightly with salt and pepper.
Put about 1 cup of flour into a pie plate and dredge three of the thighs to coat both sides lightly with flour and shake off excess. Set the floured thighs on a plate.
Immediately heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, swirling the pan by its handle occasionally. When the fat is hot and the butter foam subsides, add three thighs to the skillet and cook about 2 minutes per side until lightly browned. Set the thighs onto paper towels to drain. While the first batch of thighs is browning, dredge the remaining three thighs in the flour and shake off excess. Add the thighs to the now empty skillet and cook 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Discard the browning fat but do not wipe the pan. Set the empty skillet on medium heat and add the remaining olive oil and butter. When hot, add the onion and balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is almost tender, about 8 minutes. Adjust heat as necessary if you feel the onion is cooking too quickly. Stir in the garlic.
Add the chicken broth, white wine or vermouth, mustard, tomato paste and capers. Stir well. Add the parsley and oregano. Stir and reduce the heat so the sauce is at a low simmer. Taste carefully and adjust with salt, pepper and/or drops of fresh lemon juice if necessary.
Put the browned chicken into the simmering sauce and spoon it all over them. Cover the pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is completely cooked and tender.
Serve hot with any sides you like. I glazed some carrots (lemon juice and sugar) and cooked up some chard with shallots and garlic. Fried potatoes or steamed rice would be good along with cubes of sautéed butternut squash.