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EATING well

Baked weeknight chicken is fast and flavorful

This recipe calls for dark meat chicken, which widens the window of cooking time forgiveness.

Associated Press

This recipe calls for dark meat chicken, which widens the window of cooking time forgiveness.

People often ask what my most-used kitchen tool is (a high-speed blender). But if you were to ask my mom that same question 30 years ago, I am sure she would have answered her Pyrex baking dish.

When I was growing up, probably 75 percent of my meals were made in that thing. Baked fish. Baked chicken. Baked pasta. Baked rice casserole.

Baked dinner figured big in my childhood. As I got older and moved into my own apartment, I wondered why my mom didn't explore other techniques a little more. She could have been searing that fish. And why not saute that chicken?

Now that I'm a mom, I understand the appeal of baked dishes. Baked stuff is easy. And as a mom of four busy girls, I need something easy to make on a Tuesday night, because between dance class and lacrosse practice, I only have a short window during which to make dinner happen. And since the healthiest dinners are the ones we make ourselves, baked chicken is on frequent repeat in my family meal repertoire.

But I've learned a few lessons during the past 40 years, improving significantly upon Mom's version.

First, I use bone-in dark meat chicken. This widens the window of cooking time forgiveness. Plus, dark meat chicken has more flavor, and the little extra fat means it's more filling. Second, I go heavy with the aromatics.

Upgrading from white wine to vermouth also is a great flavor-booster. Lastly, I start the chicken with just enough of a saute to get a tasty, golden crust.

BEST BAKED WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN

8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (or dried thyme and oregano mixed)

20 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed

3 shallots, thinly sliced

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup dry vermouth

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Working in batches, briefly brown the chicken thighs on both sides, 6 to 7 minutes, transferring them to a plate as you work.

In a small bowl, toss together the herbes de Provence, garlic, shallots and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add a little salt and pepper.

Once all the chicken has browned, return it to the pot off the heat. Arrange the chicken in a single but tight layer. Spoon the shallot and garlic mixture around the chicken. Pour the lemon juice and vermouth evenly around the chicken. Cover the pot and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 175 degrees.

Serves 4.

Nutrition information per serving: 290 calories (110 calories from fat, 38 percent of total calories), 13g fat (2.5g saturated, 0g trans fats), 130mg cholesterol, 380mg sodium, 10g carbohydrates, 1g fiber, 2g sugar, 29g protein.

Baked weeknight chicken is fast and flavorful 03/31/16 [Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2016 3:25pm]
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