Life is busy. We don't always have the luxury of thumbing through our favorite cookbooks, marking appealing recipes with sticky notes for dinners sometime off in the future when we will somehow have time to salt-cure a cod or dry-age a side of beef in our garage fridge. Sometimes, we just need to get dinner on the table. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it should still be tasty and nutritious.
Enter the chicken leg and thigh.
Often overlooked by the healthy cook due to its higher fat content, dark chicken meat is underappreciated. Yes, the dark meat has a few more grams of fat than the white meat of the breasts (a 3 ½-ounce serving of breast meat has about 4 grams of fat, while the same amount of dark meat has just under 6 grams). And the higher cholesterol of the dark meat means the breast probably still should be in your rotation.
But chicken legs and thighs are luscious in texture and full of flavor and protein (about 28 grams per serving). They also are much lower in saturated fat than most cuts of red meat, and they offer more iron per serving than chicken breasts. Perhaps most important of all for the busy weeknight cook is that bone-in dark meat chicken is very forgiving in terms of cooking time. Which is to say, it is very hard to overcook dark chicken meat.
So on weeknights when my husband and I both have to work and one daughter has dance and the other three have soccer, lacrosse and more soccer, I totally appreciate the forgiveness offered by the dark meat.
One of my favorite weeknight chicken leg and thigh strategies is to load them up in a large plastic bag in the morning, dump in some veggies and a quick marinade, then toss the whole thing into the refrigerator to sit all day. After work, I dump the contents of the bag into a baking dish and pop it into the oven. Dinner, done!
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."