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Greg Patent Chicken

Crispy-skinned chicken thighs flavored with a coriander, ginger and lemon marinade and served with a tangy rhubarb, ginger and lemon chutney, make a bright and piquant dish for spring. Serve with a garden salad, such as arugula. 

I love new ideas for cooking rhubarb, especially savory ones. Last week, Melissa Clark in the New York Times wrote about roasting a whole chicken and serving it with lemon-glazed rhubarb. What a terrific idea. I decided to run with it but chose juicy chicken thighs because they cook quickly and there’s no carving!

The ginger-spiked rhubarb and lemon become chutney rather than a glaze, and it’s a perfect spicy/tangy foil for the crispy-skinned chicken thighs. Lemon finds its way into the recipe in two ways, as grated zest and as sliced fruit.

The best way I’ve found to get chicken thigh skin to become crisp is to make sure the skin is really dry before putting the thighs skin-side down into a skillet. Cooking on a medium-low heat for about 15 minutes coaxes the fat out of the skin and makes it deliciously crispy.

This isn’t the kind of recipe you can throw together at the last minute, but it is one you can get ready to cook hours or even a day ahead. The recipe will tell you how. Because most of the cooking takes place in the oven, dinner will be ready lickety split. Just put together a garden salad while the oven does its job and you’re all set.

Crispy-skinned chicken thighs with gingered rhubarb and lemon chutney

Makes 6 servings.

Chicken and marinade

6 large bone-in, skin on, chicken thighs (about 3 pounds total weight)

2 teaspoons table salt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 packed teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 ½ teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

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6 thyme sprigs

Rhubarb lemon chutney

1 small lemon (used for the zest above), ends trimmed, cut into thin (⅛-inch) slices

1 pound trimmed rhubarb stalks, sliced ½-inch-thick (4 cups)

½ cup sugar

2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, sliced thin

⅛ teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1. Prepare the chicken. Rinse thighs and pat dry. Trim away any extra flaps of skin and fat. Set thighs skin side down in a paper towel-lined 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan. The paper is to keep the skin dry. Mix together in a small bowl the salt, coriander, lemon zest, ginger, black pepper and olive oil. Spread small dollops of the pasty marinade onto the chicken flesh and set a thyme sprig on top of each thigh. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate an hour or two or overnight.

2. To make the chutney, remove any seeds from the lemon slices and cut each slice into quarters. Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to the boil and add the lemon. Boil 2 full minutes and drain in a sieve. This blanching step removes bitterness from the lemon. Combine the lemon with all the remaining chutney ingredients in a 9-inch square baking pan, tossing well. Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two or overnight.

3. To cook, adjust two oven racks with one in the center position and the other below it. Remove the chicken and rhubarb from the refrigerator. Uncover both pans. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the pan with the rhubarb on the lower rack. Place the chicken thighs skin-side down into a large skillet (12-inches; cast-iron is okay) and set it over medium-low heat. As the pan heats, the chicken skin will release fat and become brown and crispy. This will take about 15 minutes, so be patient. Put the skillet on the oven’s middle rack. Give the rhubarb chutney a stir.

4. Bake the chicken 15 to 20 minutes, until fully cooked. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the flesh — and not touching bone — should read 165 to 170 degrees. Also, if you press the flesh and it springs back firmly when you release the pressure, the chicken is done. The chutney will have cooked about 40 minutes in all. It should be thick and syrupy.

5. To serve, set the chicken thighs skin-side up on dinner plates and spoon a dollop of chutney alongside each. Accompany with a garden salad or cooked greens.

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Greg Patent is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author for “Baking in America,” a food journalist, blogger and radio co-host for “The Food Guys” on Montana Public Radio. Please visit his blog, www.thebakingwizard.com, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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