Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on May 18, 2015

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com In the mid-1980’s, I graduated with a BS degree in Emergency Health Services from UMBC. This was long before I ever contemplated getting into the food business, but a journey that provided me with the opportunity to explore a completely different field altogether.

When looking for a university to apply to, I purposely looked for a small school where classrooms were within close proximity to the dorms and on-campus apartments. This helped me to focus on my challenging course work and not worry about how I was going to make it back and forth to campus every day. In those days, the number of students was just under 6,000 in the entire school, with the largest percentage of students being those who commuted daily. Those who lived on campus shared various housing options that included dorms (for underclassmen) and apartments (for upperclassmen). I was blessed to earn a full scholarship to this top school that covered everything — including housing.

For my freshmen and sophomore years, I did what all of the other resident students were required to do — I lived on campus in one of the dorms, namely Chesapeake Hall. In my junior year, I submitted an application for the apartments that were located high up on the hill, but still well withing walking distance to the school buildings. It was a rite of passage that everyone took advantage of and if you were lucky to get an apartment, it offered you a little more freedom and independence.

The very small 7 room apartments were just that – 4 very small furnished rooms, a bathroom with shower, a small living room and a kitchenette. I say kitchenette, because there was only a sink, a fridge and a 2 burner stovetop with no oven. Someone would usually bring a microwave to share with everyone in the apartment, because they were not provided. Apartment living meant that we were no longer tied to the dining plan where students were required to pay for the dining plan and eat (or not) in the campus dining halls. Once you moved to the apartments, the dining plan was still an option, but now you had the choice of bringing your own food.

Most college students are not known for healthy eating habits, so it took some effort to keep myself in check and not gain the dreaded 15-20 pounds of college weight. Because the campus was so small, there was not a lot of activities to enjoy on campus, so those of us who lived close enough to home would leave on Friday afternoon and return on Sunday. Knowing this, many families would prepare wholesome meals for their kids over the weekends and send them back to school with arms full of food to enjoy throughout the week.

One of my roommates would bring back a specialty that her mother would make her – a whole roast chicken rubbed with paprika and other spices that would last her all week. I remember tasting it at one point and thinking how delicious and fragrant it was, with lots of onion, garlic and sweet paprika. She would make herself sandwiches using her favorite Hawaiian Bread rolls, which were the perfect accompaniment to the flavors of the dish.

Fast forward to today and my busy life always dictates looking for quick and easy meals. I found myself often thinking about the beautiful simplicity of this dish, and became inspired when my Facebook friends began to share their versions. I wanted to create a quick skillet version, but instead of using a whole chicken, I wanted to focus on my favorite part –the luscious dark meat.

When I find packs of good quality, organic boneless, skinless thighs on sale, I stock up. I use them for just about everything. I buy the boneless and skinless version because you don’t need to buy thighs on the bone. Thighs are inherently moist and flavorful, and I don’t want to pay for things I don’t need.

My friend Ronnie, who owns and runs the Burrell Group in NYC, sent me some new honey flavors to try from Honey Ridge Farms. I was only too happy to be the lucky recipient of these samples because I just love their products, and soon after began dreaming of a citrus based honey version of this paprika chicken that I loved so much.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

I chose to use the new blood orange honey from Honey Ridge Farms which I combined with some extra lemon and lime. All 3 citrus items combined beautifully with the sweetness of the honey and the sweet & smoky flavor of the paprika and cumin.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

The type of paprika you use will make a difference.  If you pick up some from a mainstream grocery store, it may only add color (and bitterness) to your dish, and not really the kind of flavor you’re after. If you have the opportunity to shop at international markets, make sure to find either a sweet Hungarian paprika or a dulce (sweet) Spanish paprika. These also come in spicier versions, but unless you use a lot of it in your cooking, I would buy the sweet version and use something else when you want to add heat.

Enjoy these delicious thighs either warm or cold with your favorite side dishes. If there are any leftovers, dice them finely and either add them to a tossed salad with some homemade ranch dressing or make some homemade mayo and toss in some diced sweet onions, diced sundried tomatoes and a confetti of diced peppers (red, green or yellow or a little of all) for something deliciously different.

And, if you think that you can’t apply this recipe to a whole roasted chicken, think again. Whether you choose to brine it overnight or just rub it silly with all of those good spices, just make sure to do it well. When I make a whole roast, I usually add a few tablespoons of butter to the mixture above and double the recipe to have enough for both the outside of the chicken and the inside cavity as well. Once I’ve rubbed the chicken in the spice mix, I leave it covered in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. When it’s time to bake, I cook the chicken covered with foil for about an hour  and then remove the foil to let it roast beautifully for another 30 minutes or so, while I baste it with all of that delicious glaze that has formed at the bottom of the pan…

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika
5 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil, NOT olive oil)
1 level tablespoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons onion powders
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
2 good pinches of ground black pepper (or your choice of spice)
3 or 4 tablespoon grapeseed oil (or other vegetable oil, NOT olive oil) for frying pan

Clean and rinse the chicken thighs and slicing into any thick parts, without cutting through completely (just fillet slightly to open up the thick part so that it cooks evenly). Remove any pieces of fat that remain and place the thighs in a bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil, the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder cumin, salt and black pepper to the thighs and use your hands to coat everything well together. Cover with plastic and allow this to remain in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can also prepare this in the morning before leaving work – that would be even better.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Right before you are ready to begin cooking the thighs, make the glaze below. Once you have made the glaze, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of grapeseed oil to the bottom of your skillet. The oil should completely coat the bottom of the pan. Heat over moderate flame and use a pair of tongs to add the thighs to the skillet, placing them snuggly together in the pan.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Allow them to cook for about 2 minutes uncovered, and then flip them to cook the other side. At this point, make sure to cover the skillet to cook the chicken all the way through. The chicken will release some liquid, and this is what you want.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Cook the chicken on each side for another 2-3 minutes, then flip again and cover the skillet again. Continue to do this until you see this liquid evaporate.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

At this point, remove the lid and add a few tablespoons of the glaze and cook again for a few minutes on one side but do not cover this time. Flip the thighs over onto the other side and add more glaze. Continue to do this as the thighs continue to cook and take on a lovely golden color. Use up all of the glaze in this process, and if you need to reduce your flame a little to prevent them from burning, then just use your best judgment and do that. When they are finished, toss in the lime zest to cover all of the thighs and toss again quickly to coat each piece with some zest. You are not really cooking them anymore at this point, just making sure that the zest is dispersed well. Once cooked, add them to a platter with other side dishes or serve them right out of your skillet.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

Honey Citrus Glaze
2 heaping tablespoons of Blood Orange Honey
Juice and zest of 1 large lime, keep zest aside to add at the end
Juice of 1 large lemon

Add the honey to a small bowl and heat for a few seconds in the microwave until it has liquefied. Add the juice of the lemon and the lime, but keep the zest separate from the glaze to be added last.

Citrus Honey Chicken Thighs With Sweet Paprika, www.goodfoodgourmet.com

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