The kitchen in our new old house is still very much a work in progress. As is the rest of the house. But we entertained our first non-family member on Memorial Day. It being the traditional kickoff weekend for grilling, we had bought a new charcoal grill the previous weekend. What we didn’t do in the ensuing week was assemble it. So instead of a cookout, we had a cook-in. And the in-progress kitchen performed beautifully.
This is our first kitchen together that we didn’t inherit, complete with existing rental unit-grade appliances, bad layout and too little storage. We got to choose cabinets and countertops and a farmhouse sink. We got to lay things out. We got to choose appliances. (We didn’t go crazy here, no commercial grade ranges or fridges with touch screens – just solidly built kitchen tools that do their jobs beautifully. Including perhaps the world’s quietest dishwasher that we strain to even hear if it’s running.)
And maybe best of all, we got to open up a former tiny bedroom and turn it into a walk-in pantry. The fridge and microwave are in there, not taking up space in the kitchen proper. All in all, it’s a simple kitchen, well laid out and easy to work in. And as we saw Monday, it’s the social gathering space we never had in any other kitchen.
Potato salad and dessert had been made before guests arrived. A green salad would come together quickly at the end. So we sat in the living room, catching up. Then came time for me to go cook the main course. In our previous kitchens, cooking meant Marion or me (or both of us) being exiled to the kitchen while everyone else hung out in the living room. Our former kitchens just didn’t invite hanging out. Often, we would have to ask the stalwart souls who tried to keep us company to “move over here” or “stand over there” as we bustled about.
Monday started that way too, me working alone in the kitchen as stories and laughter drifted in from the living room. But then one person wandered into the kitchen. Then another. Soon everyone was settled around the small kitchen island, watching me mince garlic and ginger and measure hoisin sauce. This is how we’d imagined our new kitchen working when we planned it, and it did.
Okay, so let’s talk chicken. Not knowing whether the grill would be assembled in time or not – or whether the freaky weather would choose to cooperate – we wanted a main course we could cook indoors or out. These Hoisin Chicken Thighs are exactly that. Whether grilled or roasted, they turn out juicy and tender, and the easy-to-prepare sauce brings lots of flavor to the table without the need for marinating time.
I first prepared the grilled version of this recipe several years ago. This link will give you the recipe for the hoisin-based sauce as well as grilling instructions. Here’s how I oven-roasted it, using a rimmed baking sheet. Restaurant cooks have known about using rimmed baking sheets for tasks other than baking probably since forever. They’re large and sturdy, and their low rims allow heat to get at the food better, while still retaining cooking juices and fats. Recently, the idea of putting baking sheets to work for tasks other than baking has been showing up all over the place for home cooks – in magazines, on websites and blogs.... We love ours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Trim excess fat from the thighs and arrange them in a single layer on a well-oiled rimmed baking sheet. Season on both sides with salt and pepper, and brush with the hoisin-based sauce. In my grilling recipe, I said you would have lots of sauce left over. Obviously, I used a generous hand this time. I used it all.
Roast the chicken thighs skin side up on the middle rack in the oven. Cook until thighs are cooked to at least 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the thigh, about 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan once. Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a platter and serve.
Related post on Blue Kitchen: Grilled Hoisin Chicken Thighs