The curse of roasted chicken — especially when you are working with parts rather than a whole bird — is how easily is dries out. A few too many minutes in the oven can be all it takes to go from juicy to chewy.
So we decided to create a roasted chicken recipe that all but guarantees moist, tender results, even if we get distracted a bit during cooking. We wanted a recipe that was both convenient and forgiving.
So we did two things. First, we opted for bone-in thighs with the skin removed. Thighs by definition are moist and tender, and are particularly good at resisting overcooking. Bone-in cuts tends to have more flavor and more moisture, but you certainly could use boneless thighs. Just reduce the cooking time slightly.
Step two is a salt water bath. Not only does brining the chicken help keep it moist in the dry heat of a roast, it also is a good opportunity to add flavor. We season it with black pepper, thyme, rosemary, savory and garlic, but you could use whatever combination of fresh or dried herbs and seasonings you prefer.
Following the brine, we coat the chicken with chopped walnuts and coarse panko breadcrumbs. The result is chicken that is lightly crunchy on the outside, but moist and tender at the center.
Herb-Brined, Walnut-Crusted Chicken Thighs
Start to finish: 45 minutes (15 minutes active)
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 cup water
1 cup ice
2 cups apple juice
4 sprigs fresh thyme
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs fresh savory
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
Zest of half an orange
In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the salt, pepper and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and add the ice. Stir in the apple juice.
Bruise the thyme, rosemary and savory by placing them a cutting board and hitting them with the back side of a chef’s knife or a meat mallet. In a zip-close plastic bag, combine the liquid mixture with the bruised herbs and the garlic. Add the chicken thighs to the bag and squish around to cover in the brine. Refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours, then heat the oven to 450 F when ready to cook.
Remove the chicken from the brine and discard the brine. Use paper towels to pat the chicken thighs dry, then arrange them on a rimmed baking sheet.
In a small bowl, combine the walnuts and breadcrumbs. In another small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, coriander and orange zest. Brush the mayonnaise mixture over the surface of each chicken thigh. Pat some of the walnut mixture evenly over the top of each thigh.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and 170 F at the center.
Nutrition information per serving: 220 calories; 120 calories from fat (55 percent of total calories); 14 g fat (2.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 60 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 17 g protein; 360 mg sodium.
Alison Ladman is a recipe developer for the AP.