There is nothing wrong with simple. Some of my best friends are simple and that’s why I like them. Grilled chicken with a spritz of lemon juice and a handful of chopped fresh herbs is summer in a nutshell to me. Or cook it under the broiler and bring some summertime to the middle of winter. It doesn’t really matter what herb(s) you use, but try to mix it up and stick to herbs in the same ‘family’—sage, thyme, rosemary, summer savory. Parsley doesn’t do much here. Either do chives. And if you like cilantro and would like to use it here, break the mix-it-up rule and use it on its own. And, yes, this is a lot of salt, but it works on the brine principle—nowhere near all the salt is absorbed.
One of the nice things about lemon-herb chicken is that you can grill it, broil it, sauté it or roast it. Whichever method you choose, use high heat and shoot for a rich brown crust and juicy center.
Makes 2 servings
¼ cup chopped mixed herbs, my suggestions: any or all of these: rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory, tarragon, garlic chives
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Large pinch crushed red pepper
4 boneless chicken thighs
Squeeze the lemon juice into a medium bowl. Add the herbs, garlic, salt and red pepper. Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs and add them to the bowl. Toss around so all the chicken is coated.
Put the chicken and marinade into a 1-quart Ziploc bag. Squish the chicken around to coat all the pieces with marinade. Put in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days, taking the bags out every once in a while and squishing the chicken around to make sure the pieces are marinating evenly.
When you’re ready to cook the chicken, drain it and pat it dry. Pour a little olive oil onto a plate and turn the chicken in the oil to lightly coat it.
However you cook the chicken, an instant read thermometer is a good investment. There are very basic ones for under ten bucks and high-end models that go for around a hundred dollars. I have a $25 Thermopen Thermopop, that I love and have been using for about 4 years now. I probably would have burned through at least three of the less expensive ones by now.
Grill: Start a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. In either case, when the grill passes the 4-second test—you can hold your palm about 6 inches above the grate for only 4 seconds before you need to pull it away—lay the chicken on to the grill. Cook, turning only once, until the chicken is well browned and no trace of pink remains in the thickest part of the thigh. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes, depending on your grill. Two basic grilling tips: Make sure your grill is good and clean (wire brush clean) and use a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil and a pair of long tongs to oil the grill just before you put the chicken on it. Once the chicken is on the grill resist the urge to flip it, move it, poke it or do anything else for several minutes. If you let it just sit, it will free itself from the grill easily.
Broil: Set the oven rack about 8 inches from the heat source. Preheat the broiler (to High if you have that option). Broil the chicken, turning only once, until it is well browned on at least one side and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Sauté: A non-stick pan works well. Heat the pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 12 minutes. Adjust the heat so the chicken is not splattering wildly or just sitting there, but giving off a lively sizzle.
Roast: Heat the oven to 500 F. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly oil the foil. Roast until the thighs are browned and cooked through, about 14 minutes.