We've partnered with Ajinomoto Co. Inc. to celebrate our favorite taste—umami—with a series that digs into its history, its complexity, and its many, many culinary applications. Here, we’re giving weeknight chicken a crispy, umami-rich upgrade with some help from garlic chips, a squeeze of lemon, and a dash of MSG.
For anyone who looks to dinner as respite but whose day makes it hard to come by, here’s a gift: A chicken dinner that’ll dirty one pan, set you back 30 minutes, and requires fewer than five ingredients. It isn’t a boring meal of necessity, though—a byproduct of busy lives and impatience. Thanks to a few savvy choices at the grocery and in that single pan, it’s anything but.
First, choose bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs over breasts. They have lots of skin that’ll crisp up to cracklins, and their dark meat won’t be at risk for drying out or overcooking. Those natural merits clinch the win when paired with a back-pocket pan-frying technique, which I learned from Canal House. Season the thighs, set them in a not-yet-hot pan, and try not to peek. Flip once, and you’re done, sort of: There’s now a shatteringly crispy skin on top, thighs well on their way to being perfectly cooked, plus a puddle of slowly rendered, seasoned chicken fat in the pan, thumping with possibility.
You could pour that schmaltz into a jar, saving it for another dinner, another day. Or you could use it to fry up a tangle of crunchy garlic chips to go with those juicy chicken thighs, turning your weeknight meal into something worthy of a dinner party. The flavor combo nods to classic Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, without requiring you to braise your ingredients until they’ve reached the texture of baby food. You only need four cloves for this version, but the flavor delivered seems like 40.
Last but not least: While a sound recipe, quality ingredients, and good cooking can turn minimal elements into a memorable meal, secret weapons are highly encouraged. For these crispy chicken thighs with their special-feeling garnish of garlic chips, this comes in the form of a simple squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of MSG. Lemon lightens and brightens, while the MSG heightens the umami—aka, deliciousness—of whatever it touches. (Especially ingredients like chicken and garlic, that already naturally contain umami.) Consider this step dinner’s safety net; if your plate is ever whispering “womp womp” to you, just hit it with some acid and umami.
To make it a meal, a salad of bitter or baby greens would be great on the side. Just toss the greens with the lemon and olive oil you already have out, along with another sprinkle of the MSG. And if some garlic chips mosey over to the salad, kismet!
We've partnered with Ajinomoto Co. Inc. to spark new conversations about MSG and bring you a series of recipes, stories, and videos that celebrate the fifth taste: umami. This rich, savory essence can be played up in almost any dish by adding a dash of MSG, a seasoning that's pure umami flavor. When cooking with MSG, note that MSG contains less sodium than regular table salt, and you can use a combination of the two for an instant flavor boost. The general rule of thumb: Use one part MSG and two parts table salt. You can also learn more over at the Umami Information Center and World Umami Recipes on Instagram.
The Dynamite Chicken cookbook is here! Get ready for 60 brand-new ways to love your favorite bird. Inside this clever collection by Food52 and chef Tyler Kord, you'll find everything from lightning-quick weeknight dinners to the coziest of comfort foods.