I think chicken thighs are the underrated and unsung heroes of chicken. Because they mature on the bone, the meat is juicier, more fatty and flavoursome than the breast. They are also cheaper, which is great in allowing us to create a restaurant-style dish at a student-style price. They form the centrepiece of this midweek meal, which will be prepared, cooked and on the table in 30 minutes.
Salsa Verde or ‘green sauce’ (which does not have quite the same ring to it), is a beautiful garnish for chicken or fish, and it is so easy to make. Spinach is extremely healthy, easy to cook and so delicious. When I previously worked at a restaurant we had to prepare eight boxes of the stuff each day, but luckily for us we shall just be using a small amount of baby spinach today.
For the chicken thighs:
2-3 boneless chicken thighs (per person)
2 handfuls of baby spinach (per person)
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Big knob of butter
And for the salsa verde:
2 tbsp capers
3 anchovy fillets
handful of fresh herbs (Basil, parsley, dill, coriander are my favourites. Any combination of one or more of them will work well)
Olive oil, salt and pepper.
1 garlic clove
Start with the chicken. (If you want the easiest option, boneless chicken thighs are easier to eat and quicker to cook.) Grill them on as high a temperature as your grill can go. Place them in an oven tray (foil on the bottom will help with washing up) and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and any herbs you have lying around. Rosemary is the best as it contains oils which will be released in the grilling process. When the grill is very hot, place the chicken thighs under and leave them be! All in all, the thighs should take just 12 minutes to cook.
Next prepare the salsa verde. Start by chopping the capers with your knife until they are all smudged together, then add the anchovies and repeat until everything is all the same size. Then add the garlic clove and chop it into the mixture. Next, add the herbs and chop until it all comes together as a paste. It may take five minutes of chopping, but it is worth it for a proper salsa verde. If you have a food processor, you can use this, but I personally prefer not to as I feel like that is going too far in the smooth direction. Now place in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over the top until it becomes a texture similar to pesto.
The chicken should now be ready for flipping, so carefully flip all the thighs and place under the grill again. Get a frying pan and place on a medium heat with a large knob of butter. When it is foaming gently, add as much spinach as you can and stir. When it wilts and reduces in size, add more until you have got it all in the pan. Season this well with salt and pepper. You do not want to ‘fry’ it; you want to sauté it until it wilts down. By this stage, the chicken should be ready. Cut one of the thighs in half, making sure that there is no pink colour and the juices run clear.
To plate up, drag out the spinach into two lines on the plate. Sit the chicken thighs on top, and then drizzle the whole plate with the salsa verde. Serve immediately, preferably with some crusty bread to soak up all the delicious flavours on your plate!
Image: Will Briant