Temporary Amnesia.

I’m not sure why I keep trying to like chicken thighs. It’s as if I have one of those short-term memory malfunctions, much-beloved by Grey’s Anatomy‘s grasping writers, each time I come across a dish that uses them: I forget that I can’t stand ’em until that first bite so rudely reminds me.

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Well, I meant to avoid all of that with this recipe for Chicken and Leeks Braised in Wine. It calls for eight thighs, half of which I intended to swap for breast meat so that the Carnivore— who is predisposed to dark cuts—and I would both be happy. But the guy at the market gave me pieces that must’ve belonged to a monster chicken; five were the equivalent of the eight the recipe required, so I figured I might as well use them all up with one fell swoop. That’s where I went wrong.

Of course, you may not see it that way if you’re a thigh fan, in which case: full-speed ahead.

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I’m sure you’re familiar with the refrain by now: I clipped this one from Cooking Light six YEARS ago. I pulled it out of my binder in March and moved it to the “to try soon” pile, had the best intentions to cross it off the list ASAP (for real this time, I swear), and when I finally started pulling everything out of the fridge, I realized I was missing a few key ingredients. My oregano, the only fresh herb required except for a parsley garnish, had gone bad; I had some salvageable sprigs of tarragon that I used instead. A questionable decision, to be sure, but one that wound up being pretty solid. I had lemons, but no oranges, so lemon zest it was; and the only tomatoes I had were either of the canned or grape varieties, so I went with the sweet and tiny grape for a lighter, fresher taste.

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The final product was a bit on the sweet side, so I took a hint from the magazine’s suggestion that the flavors in the dish would be best complemented by a simple Greek salad and crumbled feta cheese on top. It made all the difference: The salty cheese proved to be the ideal counterpoint to a sauce, Riesling-based and heavily seasoned with coriander and cinnamon, that had previously hovered directly above the line between “cloying” and “just right.” I served it on pasta, but crusty bread, mashed potatoes, or anything that has the capacity to soak up all of those juices would work just as well.

In the end, I only had a bite or two of the meat, but I had to go back for a second helping of everything else.

Chicken and Leeks Braised in Wine
From Cooking Light, April 2003

Cooking spray
8 chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 pounds)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 leeks, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces (about 2 1/4 pounds)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
2 cups Riesling or other slightly sweet white wine
1 teaspoon sugar
2 bay leaves
2 fresh oregano sprigs
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 (1 x 5-inch) orange rind strip
3 cups diced seeded peeled tomato
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Feta cheese, for garnish

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the chicken to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Add leeks to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned, turning once. Remove from pan.

2. Add coriander and cinnamon; cook 30 seconds. Add wine and next 5 ingredients (wine through rind), and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Add leeks. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add chicken. Cover and cook 8 minutes.

3. Add tomato; bring to a boil. Uncover and cook 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove cinnamon, bay leaves, and rind.

4. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and chopped oregano. Sprinkle each serving with parsley and feta.

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