A preference for dark meat is not merely personal, but a matter of tradition for David Fortuna, chef/owner of Wholly Ravioli, Sacramento, Calif. Ever since his family’s first restaurant was opened in 1945, its members have preached the virtues of chicken thighs. “In Italy you use all parts of the chicken,he says. “Dark meat has a more ‘chickeny’ flavor, and it absorbs marinades and holds sauces better than breast meat.
For one specialty, chicken alla Maria ($16.99), thighs are sautÃ©ed with onion and, just before service, rethermalized in Alfredo sauce, garnished with plumped sun-dried tomatoes and bedded on fettuccine. For another, skinless, boneless chicken thighs are charbroiled with summer squash and served over salad greens with house Italian dressing ($15.99). Dark meat also dominates the chicken cacciatora. And when it’s time to make chicken stock for minestrone and other dishes, skinless and boneless thighs yield a stock that is virtually fat free and easy to strain.
Sometimes big ideas come in bite-sized packages. Among the bar food selections at tapas eatery La Boca, in Norfolk, Va., are marinated, pan-fried chicken thighs called parilla de pollo ($4.95).
Similarly, at Zale Lipshy and St. Paul University Hospitals in Dallas, ready-made thigh skewers, each with about 2 ounces of boneless, skinless meat, are brushed with a blend of olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper, then grilled briefly and finished in the oven. “We can count the number of skewers per customer, making it possible to put this on our self-service Mediterranean bar,” says Mary Kimbrough, corporate director of nutrition services. “The protein portion is what costs-we don’t worry too much about the rest?? A standard order consists of two skewers ($4.25), accompanied by grilled pita, hummus, tabbouleh, cucumber sauce and tomatoes.