Buffalo Chicken Thighs with Grits and Greens
If I have learned anything in retirement, it is the importance of sitting down to a meal. We tend to sit in front of the TV or with a book and eat without a thought of what we are consuming. Worse, we eat over the kitchen sink or just whatever we can pick up and eat out of hand. Ever noticed that when you go out to dinner or have dinner with friends you are so much more satisfied than the quick fix meal you might ordinarily have at home? Remember the time when the family sat down to dinner and ate and talked together and not a single thought of snacking came up later on in the evening? You owe it to yourself to the pleasure of sitting down to a well prepared plate of food with a glass of decent wine and cloth napkin. I’ve discovered that by doing this, I am less likely to do my old practice of continued grazing until bedtime. With that in mind, make an effort to make your plate pretty as well as tasty, sit down and enjoy each mouthful of the fruits of your labor.
Chicken thighs are avoided by some because of their higher fat content than the dryer chicken breast. However, the dark meat of chicken is high in the healthy monounsaturated fats and they are cheaper and tastier. The skin is the only part you should avoid. My recipe is my take on an oven fried chicken recipe from a 2003 Eating Well magazine. It removes the ‘bad fat’ skin and uses a bit of ‘good fat’ olive oil. I like bold flavors and spices with a kick but if the heat is too much for you, just leave it out and use any poultry seasoning you like. I doubled the recipe so I could have leftovers for lunch the next day.
Corn is another sadly avoided food as most think of it as just another starchy vegetable. One cup of corn kernels has 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. A quarter cup (dry) of corn grits or polenta pack 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein with only .5 grams of fat. Polenta is a complex carbohydrate so it sits low on the glycemic index making it a lovely and satisfying side dish. You can buy polenta premade in tubes. However, when cooking for one, you are left with most of the product.
Buffalo Chicken Thighs
2 chicken thighs (I used bone in and removed the skin)
½ Cup buttermilk*
1 Tbsp hot sauce (optional)
1/3 Cup whole wheat flour
¾ tsp baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ Tbsp sesame seeds
½ tsp Aleppo pepper (optional)
½ tsp smoked paprika
olive oil cooking spray
Mix the hot sauce if using into the buttermilk and pour over the chicken thighs. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line your baking pan with parchment paper and spritz with the olive oil.
Whisk the flour, spices, baking powder and sesame seed together and put the mixture into a bag. Remove the chicken from the marinade and let as much of the liquid run off as possible. Add one piece of chicken at a time to the bag and shake to coat. Shake off excess flour and place the chicken in the prepared pan. Do not reuse the marinade or the flour. Spray the chicken with the olive oil.
Bake until crispy and golden brown and no longer pink in the middle. Depending on the size of your pieces and your oven’s reliability, about 40-50 minutes.
If you don’t have buttermilk, add ½ Tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar with regular milk.
Grits and Greens
This is a sublimely comforting and filling dish. This recipe makes one healthy serving for a main dish by just adding a salad or fruit.
Grits and Greens
1/4 C polenta or grits
1 C water
1 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp onion, chopped
1 small clove garlic (one of those skinny middle ones)
1 Cup kale or greens of choice, cleaned, tough stems removed, chopped
1 egg white or ¼ C egg substitute
1 oz sharp cheddar, grated, divided
2 Tbsp roasted red bell pepper
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees if you aren’t cooking this with the chicken.
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Add the grits and turn the heat down to medium low. Cover. Stir frequently until the water has all been absorbed. Set aside, covered, while preparing the greens.
Mince the garlic and shallot together. In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion and garlic until just starting to brown. Add the greens and cook until wilted and tender. Kale doesn’t leave a lot of liquid behind unlike some greens like spinach so you probably need to add a little to help the greens steam. If there is liquid left in the pan after cooking, drain well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In the meantime, beat the egg, tomato and about half of the cheese. Mix quickly into the partially cooled grits. Put half the grits mixture on the bottom of the baking dish (I used an 8 oz ramekin). Put all of the cooked greens on top and then cover that layer with the remaining grits. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Place the dish(es) on a pan or cookie sheet and bake until bubbly and the cheese is beginning to brown on top. (With the chicken this is about 15 minutes) Let it stand about 10 minutes (this is the hardest part). Season with a little fresh ground black pepper and enjoy!
*If you don’t have the roasted bell pepper on hand, substitute sundried tomato or salsa. I also like a thinly sliced roma tomato on top before the final layer of cheese. Experiment with the things you like. They are all equally good. I just always seem to have a partially used jars of peppers waiting to be used.