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Switch to flavor-filled chicken thighs when grilling

By Susan M. Selasky

Detroit Free Press

Published: Tuesday, April 24 2012 6:12 p.m. MDT

Chicken thighs with spicy apricot glaze. Grilling with the skin on keeps the thighs moist.

Andre J. Jackson, Mct

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At my house, firing up the grill takes place year-round, no matter the weather outside. We are not alone. Weber's annual GrillWatch has found that almost half of those surveyed grill all year.

But I'll bet with all the warm weather we've been having, more people are thinking about it.Chicken breasts, one the most popular things to grill, should also be one of the easiest. But many people overcook or undercook them.

Greg Reyner, chef-owner of Cafe Muse in Royal Oak, Mich., recently told me that he's been using chicken thighs in more dishes.

"The fat content is a little higher, but it's not as temperamental as the breast," Reyner said. "The thigh is more forgiving and a lot more flavorful."

I agree with Reyner that chicken thighs are an easy, tasty alternative, despite some confusion about their fat content, which seems to vary quite a lot. The Perdue brand lists a 3-ounce roasted chicken thigh without bone and skin as having 180 calories and 6 grams of fat. A U.S. Department of Agriculture listing says that a 3.5-ounce cooked boneless, skinless chicken thigh has 177 calories and 9 grams of fat and that about 4.6 ounces of cooked skin-on thigh meat has 346 calories and 22 grams of fat.

Today's chicken thighs with apricot glaze recipe is a great dish to whip up at the last moment for unexpected guests.

It calls for bone-in, skin-on thighs, but you can substitute boneless, skinless ones. They cost more but take less time to cook.

Grilling them with the skin on keeps them moist, but you can remove the skin before serving to save fat and calories. You can grill them without the skin, too, just make sure you baste them every so often with the glaze to keep them from drying out.

The USDA recommends cooking thighs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. The timing depends on the size of the thighs.

The glaze is made with apricot preserves, one of my pantry staples. The preserves are mixed and heated with minced jalapeno peppers and crushed red pepper flakes. The sweetness from the preserves balances the heat from the jalapenos.

CHICKEN THIGHS WITH SPICY APRICOT GLAZE

Serves: 4 (2 thighs each)

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, if desired. They will take about half the time to grill over direct heat.

8 small chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ cup apricot or peach preserves

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 jalapeno pepper, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Cilantro sprigs for garnish

Preheat the grill to medium-high for direct heat. Coat the grill rack with a flavorless oil, such as canola. Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, stir apricot preserves, red wine vinegar, olive oil, jalapeno, garlic and red pepper flakes. Heat until melted.

Remove 2 tablespoons of the apricot glaze and add to chicken thighs in the bowl. Toss to coat thighs. Set remaining glaze aside.

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and place on the grill, skin- side down. Grill until you get nice grill marks on the skin side. Turn over and brush with some of the glaze. Close the lid on the grill and grill until the thighs are cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes depending on how big the thighs are. Baste occasionally with more of the glaze if desired.

The thighs are done when the internal temperature of the thickest part is 165-170 degrees.

Remove the chicken thighs from the grill and transfer to a serving platter. Pour remaining glaze over the chicken and sprinkle with green onions and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

423 calories (44 percent from fat), 21 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat), 40 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams protein, 260 mg sodium, 96 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

— from and tested by Susan Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen