When it comes to chicken, people have a tendency to prefer breast meat. It offers the benefit of being a large, consistent piece of meat. But the boneless, skinless chicken breast is not very flavorful and can be dry. The boneless, skinless thigh is a perfect alternative to the breast. The thigh is dark meat and, when cooked, is more juicy and flavorful than white meat. Thigh meat is also generally a little cheaper than breast meat.
For these chicken thighs I decided to go with a pairing of apple and Jarlsberg. My dad picked the apples on the abandoned farm of a Norwegian bachelor in North Dakota, and the cheese came from Jarlsberg, Norway. Strangely, I also had gjetost, another Norwegian cheese, in my fridge. But I wanted to save that for meatballs in gjetost sauce…ooh baby!
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Kosher Salt
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 1 T butter
- 1 minced garlic clove
- 2 peeled, cored diced apples
- ½ C water
- 1 T Scotch
- 4 oz Jarlsberg cheese
Pan-Fried Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs with Apple and Jarlsberg Cheese
- Take the chicken thighs out of the package and lay them out flat on a cutting board. I have not a clue how the thigh meat is removed. Even the free range, organic chicken companies offer a boneless, skinless option. Which is great, because I like that chicken better. It is more similar in flavor to the chickens we raised when I was young. Since most of the flavor of the dish will come from the pan sauce, you will want your chicken to taste simply of chicken. So that means salt and pepper, and no more.
- Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken thighs and begin heating a frying pan on the stove over medium heat. To the pan, add ½ T of vegetable oil and 1 T of butter. Melt the butter and let the cooking oil/fat get hot before adding your chicken thighs. To cook the chicken thighs, you can choose to roll them up like they are in the picture or you can splay them out. Splayed out, they will cook faster. Rolled up will take longer because they are thicker, but presentation-wise, they will look better.
- Once the frying pan is up to heat, the butter begins to brown; this means its time to add your chicken thighs. Lay the thighs in quickly and let them sit; don’t move them around or poke at them. If you move them too much they will stick. You could avoid all this and use a non-stick pan, but you would lose all those tasty pan-drippings for the sauce. It’s up to you. After a few minutes, the thighs will be ready to be flipped.
- Even if on the outside the chicken thighs are browned and look delicious, they may still be raw on the inside. To avoid eating raw food, you could cut into the thicker part of a thigh or you could use a digital thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken thighs. The internal temp should be between 161-165 degrees F. You may want to check all the thighs, just to be safe. After the thighs are done, you can do whatever you want to them. But keep reading if you want to see what I did.
- After the chicken thighs are done, remove them from the pan to a plate to rest. Add to the still-hot pan one minced garlic clove and two peeled, cored and diced apples. Stir these around for a minute. Next, deglaze the pan with ½ C of water. Scrape the drippings up from the pan as the water boils. You may be wondering why I didn’t use booze or stock to deglaze the pan. Well, mostly because I didn’t want to lose the flavor of the apple. Plus, water works better for deglazing pans.
- As the chicken thighs are resting to the side, they will be producing some juices. Add these juices back to the pan sauce, then taste the sauce to see if it needs any salt. At this point, if you want a little booze flavor, you can add a bit. I dropped in 1 T of Scotch and stirred it in as the sauce cooled. This way, I got more Scotch flavor while using a lot less Scotch. If I had deglazed the pan with it, I would have essentially wasted ½ cup of Scotch. Which would have made my roommate very angry. [Editor’s note: He’s right.]
- Add the chicken thighs back to the pan and coat them in the sauce. At this point, the chicken thighs could be broiled or baked quickly until hot, and then served. And they would probably be really good. But if you want to really push the envelope, keep reading.
- Put some thick slices of Jarlsberg cheese on top of the chicken thighs while the broiler heats up. Jarlsberg is a Norwegian cheese with some similarities to Swiss. Jarlsberg is a little sweeter though and goes great with ham and apples. If you don’t have Jarlsberg, try a Swiss or maybe a Gouda. I bet almost anything would be alright, as long as it’s a non-processed cheese. Just melt the cheese until it gets bubbly and begins to brown ever so slightly, then take the chicken thighs out of the pan and enjoy.
Tips & Tricks
- Don’t move the chicken thighs around too much. The more you flip them, the longer they will take to cook, and also the dryer the meat will become as the outside gets overcooked.
- If you cover the frying pan with a lid, you will introduce steam, which will cook the chicken thighs faster, but will push out some of the juices. The result will be a quicker, dryer chicken thigh.
- If you don’t like butter, try a vegetable oil instead. Olive oil will work too, but it may burn if you aren’t careful.