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Chicken thighs: a tasty stand-in for pricey boned, skinless breasts


Chicken thighs are a penny-pinchers delight. These meaty, moist poultry parts are easy to work with, very flavorful and, best of all, cost anywhere from one-third to one-half the price of skinless, boneless chicken breasts.

For example, a local grocery store was selling name-brand boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $2.69 a pound. Thighs, with the skin and bone, were selling at $1.19 a pound. Roughly speaking, plan on losing about one ounce per thigh when the skin and bone are removed.

Thighs can be substituted in most white meat recipes but work best in strong sauces, such as tomato or red wine, says Beverly Cox, a home economist for Perdue. She says thighs, with their strongly flavored flesh, do not work as well in delicate sauces, such as cream sauces.

Generally, thighs can be substituted one-for-one for chicken breasts. Cooking time might be a little longer. Chicken thighs can vary dramatically in size, so the best way to decide if the chicken is done is to be sure the juices run clear.

Dark poultry meat is still a nutritional bargain, with fewer calories and less cholesterol than red meat. However, dark meat has more calories and fat than white meat. A 3-ounce serving of dark meat, without bones or skin, has 10 grams of fat and 203 calories. A comparable amount of white meat has 5 grams of fat and 163 calories, according to the American Heart Association Cookbook.

While some supermarkets carry thighs that have been skinned and deboned, it is just as easy and more economical to do it yourself.

There is only one bone in a thigh. Make a small cut alongside the bone to expose it, pull it out and snip it off with kitchen scissors. The skin is easily pulled off.

Chicken thighs have also become a popular substitute for red meat, particularly in stir-frys or stews, says Mrs. Cox. Thighs are much cheaper and have less cholesterol than beef, she says. Use an equal amount of thigh for the beef called for in the recipe.

Thighs can be flattened between waxed paper using a meat mallet. This isn't necessary but makes a more elegant presentation and makes the thighs cook faster.

Mrs. Cox says this versatile Italian-style recipe is one of her favorites for chicken thighs.

Italian thighs

Makes 4 servings

4 to 8 chicken thighs, depending on size

Italian seasoning

olive oil

1 24 1/2 ounce jar spaghetti sauce

2 cups cooked pasta, about

Skin and debone the thighs, flattening to an even thickness if desired. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. In a nonstick skillet, lightly coated with olive oil, cook the thighs until browned on both sides. Add a jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce, cover partially and simmer over medium heat until done. Juices will run clear. Serve with pasta.

Mrs. Cox says thighs are also excellent stuffed. Use your favorite recipe or try this one.

Stuffed thighs

Makes 4 servings

4 to 8 chicken thighs

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 cup thawed, drained frozen spinach, chopped fine

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Skin, debone and flatten thighs to an even thickness.

Combine remaining ingredients, mixing well. It's important that the spinach be well drained. Spread thighs with mixture, discarding any extra. Roll thighs up, securing with toothpicks or kitchen twine.

Spray baking pan with non-stick spray. Bake in a 350-degree oven until done, about 25 minutes.

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