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The Baltimore Sun

Bone up on chicken

Nearly two months into the new year, we've been good — eating boneless, skinless chicken to help control calories, fat and portion size. But man, oh man, we're often left craving flavor. Especially when company's coming. So let's take a look at the meat counter once more and consider old-fashioned chicken on the bone. For flavor, appearance, price and variety, it can't be beat.

Think about chicken wings. The skin and bones make them delectable, with tons of moisture and meaty flavor. The same rings true for chicken breasts. Seriously. In addition, skin and bones help prevent overcooking and subsequent dryness. An added bonus: Bone-in chicken tends to be lower in price per pound than the more processed boneless versions. Simply plan an additional ounce or two per serving to account for the bones.

As a nation, we've demanded so much boneless, skinless chicken breast that now we have a hard time finding chicken breasts on the bone. Scoop them up when they're available. At home, trim off any rib bones and extra pockets of fat. Wrap them individually in plastic and then put into a freezer bag to freeze, up to three months or so. You'll find chicken on the bone with the skin freezes better than the super-lean boneless skinless options.

Belinda Jeffery, a cookbook author from New South Wales, calls a whole chicken leg (often partly deboned) a chicken "chop." Great idea when you think about it — in an odd way the whole leg does resemble a chop. Good sell to the kids too. Look for small chicken leg "quarters" in the meat counter or order them from the butcher. If you're grilling the "chops," leave the skin on to prevent dryness. If you're brining or marinating the legs, the skin can be removed if desired. Try marinating them in a yogurt-ginger-garlic mixture for tandoori version. In this recipe for chicken breasts on the bone, a simple glaze made from honey and balsamic vinegar beautifully bronzes the skin while flavoring the meat. Add small potatoes to the roasting pan to soak up the flavors. This qualifies as company fare any time of year.

Chicken safety

As with any meat cooking, employ a few safety precautions:

Clean all surfaces well that have been exposed to raw chicken; don't let kitchen tools that have touched raw chicken touch the cooked meat.

Always marinate in the refrigerator; put leftovers away shortly after cooking.

Honey balsamic glazed chicken and potatoes

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 55 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

For even more flavor, marinate the chicken in about 1/4 cup of the honey mixture in a zippered food bag in the refrigerator up to 1 day. This also works well with boneless skinless chicken. Simply reduce cooking time by about half.

4 chicken breast halves on the bone with skin

1 pound small yellow potatoes, cut in half

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon walnut oil or olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon each: salt, dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs, optional

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put chicken and potatoes into a large roasting pan (chicken should not be crowded). Mix remaining ingredients (except thyme sprigs) in small bowl. Spoon some of the honey glaze over chicken and potatoes; stir potatoes to coat with glaze.

2. Roast chicken 40 minutes. Brush chicken with reserved honey glaze. Roast, basting every 5 minutes, until deep brown and chicken juices run clear, about 15 minutes. Arrange chicken and potatoes on a platter. Stir pan juices well; spoon over chicken. Garnish, if desired, with sprigs of thyme.

Nutrition information

Per serving: 392 calories, 26% of calories from fat, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 82 mg cholesterol, 41 g carbohydrates, 32 g protein, 385 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

Tandoori-style chicken chops

Prep: 25 minutes

Marinate: Overnight

Cook: 40 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

Basmati rice or flatbreads would complement the zesty chicken. So does steamed broccoli and a refreshing sauce made from plain yogurt mixed with grated fresh cucumber, salt and a little fresh mint.

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 piece (1-inch long) ginger root, peeled, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons each: fresh lemon juice, olive oil

2 1/2 tablespoons tandoori seasoning, recipe follows, or bottled curry powder

6 to 8 whole chicken legs (leg and thigh attached), skin removed

Parsley sprigs, red onion rings for garnish

1. Put yogurt, onion, ginger, garlic, lemon juice, oil and tandoori seasoning into a blender. Process until smooth. Put chicken into a bowl. Add yogurt mixture; turn to coat chicken well. Cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

2. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put chicken onto a wire rack set over a baking sheet to catch drippings. Roast until chicken juices run clear, about 45 minutes. Garnish with parsley and onion.

Tandoori seasoning: Mix 2 teaspoons each ground cumin, coriander and paprika with 1 teaspoon each salt and ground red pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon turmeric in a small bowl.

Nutrition information

Per serving: 144 calories, 42% of calories from fat, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 0.5 g carbohydrates, 20 g protein, 97 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

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