Chicken

30-Minute Chicken Lettuce Wraps for Busy Weeknights—& Every Other Night

Juicy, fresh, and delicious.

December  5, 2018
Photo by Mark Weinberg

My entire life, I've been warned against boneless, skinless anything—but especially boneless, skinless chicken thighs. "Dry," my mother once hissed, miming the international signal for "I'm choking" exaggeratedly when we came across them at a hotel buffet.

In my household, our chicken thighs had both bone and skin. We coated them in olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then baked them to crispy, juicy oblivion at a low temp. We called the dish "Joan Chicken" (after a family friend who introduced us to this prized method) and ate it for dinner about once a week.

Because Joan Chicken is so delicious, and scientifically impossible to get sick of (I'm at about 200 Joan Chicken-Thighs, and counting), I've never had a need to seek out another thigh recipe. When a poultry craving strikes, I simply grab my olive oil and accoutrement, turn the oven to 350°F, and wait for Joan Chicken to save the day.

Until the unthinkable happened. In a fit of totally respectable grocery store distraction (OK, OK: I was playing Settlers of Catan on my phone), I accidentally came home with a whole pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

I gave them a once-over, sitting there on my counter in their white-butcher-paper jacket, all sacklike and droopy, as if to say, "this isn't our fault, it's yours."

So I grabbed my Dutch oven, and got to work. I knew that if I wanted juicy, flavorful chicken sans bone and skin, I'd need to focus on a few key things:

  • Building flavor every step of the way by browning my chicken before cooking, blooming my spices, deglazing the pot, and seasoning from the very start.
  • Relying on a gentle cooking method that would encourage tenderness (braising) with a cook time that wouldn't lead to dry meat.
  • Utilizing flavorful, acidic components like red wine vinegar and tomato that would help to break down the chicken while reducing into a jammy, irresistible sauce themselves.

In a complete plot twist, I absolutely loved the result, which I served in crisp lettuce wraps with a tangy, creamy avocado vinaigrette, topped with all sorts of crunchy, refreshing veg. It wasn't just great for boneless, skinless chicken thighs—it was great, period. (That it came together in about a quarter of the time that Joan Chicken takes certainly didn't hurt its case.)

While I haven't turned my back on Joan Chicken completely (crispy skin: still love you, call me), I definitely have a new go-to weeknight favorite. And I'd say it's a win-win situation across the board, because I also totally crushed that game of Catan.

What's your favorite way to cook boneless, skinless chicken thighs? Let me know in the comments!

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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1 Comment

Michele K. December 13, 2018
Oh my gosh, I switched from breast to thigh meat a few years ago because the thigh meat RARELY dries out. Reheats well too, and makes the best arroz con pollo ever!