As I mentally plan my apocalypse bunker, I find myself wondering how to eat nutritiously once currency has lost all value and I'm stuck far beneath the surface of a once-fertile earth. In preparation for this exciting nuclear winter, I'm testing low-fat, low-carb, high protein recipes you can make on a *very* strict budget with simple ingredients. Here's tonight's feast, which serves 2-3 for less than 5 bucks. Really!
Braised Chicken Thighs with Carrot, Onion, and Garlic
Chicken thighs are the unsung heroes of the culinary bird world. They are the most flavorful part of the chicken, but also the least expensive. What's not to love? You can pick up a pack of about 5 thighs for 3 dollars or less. Then grab a few carrots, an onion, and a head of garlic. You'll adapt the rest of the recipe from things you already have at home, like olive oil. Remember to trust the chicken.
Salt and pepper your chicken thighs, skinless or skin-on, then sear with olive oil in a hot pan, about 2 minutes on each side. Set aside. Now saute lengthwise-cut carrot pieces, coarse-cut onion, and whole garlic cloves, about 5 minutes--amounts are up to you. Return the thighs to the pan, reduce heat to medium, and add about 2 cups of liquid: this can be chicken broth, veggie broth, leftover chicken soup, water and 1/3 cup white wine, water and 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, water and some beef bouillon, whatever. Trust the chicken. Add a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Add a tablespoon of soy sauce. Add some paprika. I have a thing for mustard so I throw in some Coleman's Dry Mustard too. The point I hope I'm making is that you cannot screw this up unless you accidentally buy, like, paper towels instead of chicken.
Cover and cook for about a half hour if your thighs still have the bone in, which is best for flavor and moistness, turning every so often. Near the end, add any fresh herbs you have on hand like thyme, parsley, or oregano. Squeeze some lemon or lime in if you have it. You're done.
You can serve it over rice if you like, which is delicious, but if you are trying to stay away from carbs, you'll be perfectly happy with this simple, beautiful plate as it is. Note that I have not included potatoes in the dish, but you could if you wanted some starch and wanted to keep it all in one pan. My personal favorite way to eat this chicken is with warmed corn tortillas--it satisfies my love of bread without really being bread. I'll sprinkle feta and more lime in my little tacos if I'm getting crazy. Actual bread is a great accompaniment too, because you can soak up the amazing broth and smear the braised garlic on it. If you feel you need a bed of some sort of grain-type thing to feel complete, but don't want rice, you could do red lentils (toss them into your broth when you have 15 minutes left to go--amazing).
On fat: I don't shy away from good fats like olive oil, and neither should you. I think of it as essential lubrication for the gears of the body. There are basically no bad fats in this recipe, and nearly no carbs. I think one of the best things we can do for our cooking is to understand that someone is always making it up as they go along, and that recipes are not carved in stone like commandments. You will not ruin anything by making a sensible substitution or adapting to suit your needs and tastes. Food *wants* to taste good; that's its whole deal. Trust the chicken, and trust yourself.