Thursday, April 12, 2007

Dijon Thyme Chicken Thighs

Working and finishing up my graduate degree is turning into a bit of a challenge (though graduation a month from today should provide some relief!) I suppose nurturing my new marriage, getting the new house settled, and raising a crop of tomatoes in the dining room aren't helping the time crunch either.

All of this wonderful excitement in my life has taken my attention away from the cooking I love so much and has made me resort to meals that can be labeled "quick and easy". That label often translates to "bland and boring", but not always. One solution is the addition of herbs and spices to otherwise completely unexciting foods.

My mother-in-law, back when she bore the label "my boyfriend's mother", asked me what I use thyme for in my cooking. Being an Italian-American cook, she didn't count it among her staple herbs and spices. I was flummoxed. I am a cook trained in France. What don't I use thyme for? If it is savory, I probably add thyme. My stews would never be the same without it. My frittatas without thyme? Never! Sometimes it even winds up in my (Italian-style) red sauce.

Thyme is actually a member of the mint family (who knew?) much like rosemary (again, who knew?) Common thyme is what is most commonly used in cooking, hence the name perhaps, but there are also varieties like creeping thyme that people like to use in their gardens. Creeping thyme turns out to be much better for walking on or lining the edge of a garden than for eating. Somehow in all that creeping, it loses its thymey punch.

My mother has an unbelievably strong affinity (which sometimes manifests as evangelism) for lemon thyme. Epicurious defines thyme as having a "light lemon aroma" and now that I think of it that way, it is true. I suppose that since thyme is lemony anyhow, I can allow my mother the indulgence of her lemon thyme, and as a nod to her love for the stuff, I might just plant one in the garden.

Thyme is a woody perennial native to Mediterranean climates, like rosemary. There is none of the astringency of rosemary. Thyme is softer, more civilized. Appropriate, somehow, to the delicacy and depth of French cooking. Being a woody herb, thyme lasts better through cooking than some of the more delicate succulent friends like basil or parsley.

Thyme was used by the Greeks as an aphrodisiac and by the English as a symbol of courage. It was made into perfume, and used to repel insects in a linen sachet, much like lavender is used today. Although I make no promises, it is entirely possible that making this (quick and easy) chicken will make you sexy, courageous, and keep all insects at bay.

Dijon Thyme Chicken Thighs

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 boneless skinless chicken thighs

Combine the mustard, thyme, olive oil and garlic in a large zip lock bag. Add the chicken thighs and roll them around to coat evenly with the marinade. Squeeze air out of the bag, seal, and marinate in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil. Arrange the chicken on the pan, leaving a little room between the thighs. Broil about 6 inches from the heat for 5 minutes or until the top of the chicken browns. The edges will become a little crispy. Flip the chicken and broil 5 minutes more, until cooked through and browned.

(makes 4 servings)


PT said...

Nice recipe.

Due respect to your in-laws, a lot of Italian-Americans (and Italians too, as I trust you already know) use thyme, and especially rosemary & mint, as major seasonings -- but usually along with olive oil or sometimes pork fat back (lardo pepe - "peppered lard")-- rather than items like dijon.

My grandmother had a recipe for what she knew as "Caccitore" (hunter's chicken). No tomoatoes & green peppers -- a white dish made from cut-up chicken browned in lardo pepe and cooked slow with sheery or white wine, rosemary & thyme. Great with crusty bread.

Erin Seabolt Bond said...

I know this was posted years ago, but I just wanted to tell you I have this page bookmarked and make this recipe all the time. It's a favorite. Thanks so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Any tips for better broiling of the thighs? I find that they overcook in parts in order to get the thicker areas done.