Are you afraid of the dark...meat?
What is it with our world's general disdain for dark meat? Or maybe it isn't that we actually go out of our way to dislike dark meat; we just go with the flow when it comes to the color of meat that we eat, and when we notice just about everyone around us eating white meat, we figure we might as well follow suit.
America's pork industry felt so compelled to distance itself from any notion that any meat that comes from a pig is considered anything but snow white that years ago it launched the popular public relations campaign anchored by the slogan, "Pork. The other white meat."
So if pork is the other white meat, what's the primary white meat? Certainly, a juicy, tender, freshly sliced turkey breast slathered in gravy and nestled between mountains of mashed potatoes and stuffing is popular as heck on the fourth Thursday of every November. But we're not talking turkey here, we're talking the white poultry meat that is probably occupying space in your refrigerator or freezer as you are reading this: The ubiquitous, boneless, skinless chicken breast.
But even if you're a diehard breast man or woman, know that your territory is being infringed upon these days, and not a moment too soon.
With the economy still struggling to gain its footing for any extended period of time and so many families continuing to deal with unemployment or, at best, continued pay freezes while the cost of living certainly isn't remaining static, national news stories that take a detailed look at some of the reasons why so many families can't seem to keep up gain extra traction these days.
That was the case a couple months ago, when a story circulated out of Minneapolis about how the rising cost of a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts nestled onto a Styrofoam tray and covered in plastic was rising high enough that many families were turning to the breast's evil stepsister for their chicken fix, the dark-meated thigh.
As the primary grocery shopper in our house, and someone who's much more of a sucker for any name brand label that screams "NEW!" at the top than a bargain hunter, after reading the story I compared the prices of a package of boneless, skinless breasts to similarly packaged boneless, skinless thighs the next time I starved myself for 15 hours in order to have an absolute mouth-watering, diabetic coma blast while dropping around $275 at the store.
Indeed, the thighs were cheaper, so I picked up a couple packages. A few days later, as my wife and I prepared chicken salad in the kitchen to be put inside pita bread for some tasty sandwiches, we experienced nothing short of an epiphany.
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We'd placed a bunch of the boneless, skinless thighs in a pan, put it on the stove and turned on the appropriate burner. A minute or so later, the inevitable sizzle commenced and I figured I'd better drizzle some olive oil into the pan to keep the thighs from sticking.
But then...what was this? Some liquid was already gathering at the bottom of the skillet. I flipped the thighs, and more liquid accumulated. Sure, it was a little bit of fatty discharge from the meat, but any king or queen of cuisine will tell you that chicken stock or chicken broth or whatever you want to call it – Emeril Lagasse calls it "yum-yums." – amounts to cooking gold. Have some good broth on hand and you can cook an infinite number of stellar dishes.
And there it was, in our pan, bubbling as it helped the thighs along on their journey toward cooked-ness.
Chicken breasts? Forget it. They're dry. Cook some in your best skillet and, afterwards, if your skillet could talk you swear you can hear it muttering, "Come on, you can do better than that."
Sure, certain lovers of pasty white, bland nothingness will tell you that the breast is healthier than the thigh, and when it comes to fat content they're right. But thighs pack more protein, and who doesn't love a little jolt of protein power now and then?
The chicken salad-in-pita-bread sandwiches were mind-blowing. A couple weeks later we made a Thai chicken salad with thighs instead of breasts, and I was as happy as Ray Kinsella in the final scene of the film Field of Dreams: "Maybe this is heaven."
Not heaven, I?know, just meat from an ugly bird that probably never saw the sun or took in a breath of fresh air during its entire, brief and hormone-and-antibiotic-injected miserable existence on this planet.
But, yum-yum...them thighs be tasty.