I have a confession: until recently, I found the idea of grilling meat slightly terrifying. Maybe it's because I've never owned a grill of my own. Or because I usually skip over the articles about grilling in magazines. Or maybe it was due to some ingrained sexism on my part, pushing "grilling" into the "things men cook" category. Whatever the reason, this summer I've set out to change this sad state of affairs and I'm happy to report a series of successes — including these sticky, savory chicken thighs. Glazed with an addictive mixture of apricot jam and miso paste, they are a foolproof win for first-time grillers or a tasty addition to the repertoire of veteran grill-masters.
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a good choice for hesitant grillers because they cook quickly, but don't dry out even if they are slightly overcooked. I use them often because my husband — a devoted boneless, skinless chicken breast eater — hates bones, cartilage or anything "gross" (his words) attached to his chicken. Sigh. Chicken thighs are a happy middle ground for white meat lovers and the dark meat lovers who cook for them.
Especially when the thighs are brushed with a sticky, salty combination of miso paste and apricot jam, simmered into a thick paste with vinegar and a little garlic. Ever since I spotted this picture of poached apricots and white miso paste on the blog Ideas in Food, a vision of chicken glazed with the salty-sweet mixture has been floating around in my head. Happily, it tasted as good on the plate as it did in my head, but I don't think the experimentation has to stop there. Other types of miso paste and stone fruit jam would be just as flavorful — how about yellow miso paste with peach jam or red miso paste with plum jam?
The glaze would be just as good brushed onto other cuts of chicken, especially — chicken breast lovers, look away! — drumsticks, bone-in thighs, or wings, cuts that let you gnaw on all the crispy, glazed bits sticking to the bone. It doesn't matter what you choose; what matters is doing a little grilling while the grilling is good. A late sunset, the smell of hot charcoal, a cold beer in the hand — I might have come to grilling meat a little late in life, but I fully plan to make up for lost time this summer and every summer beyond.
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Apricot-Miso Glaze
Serves 4 to 6
For the chicken: 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds) Salt Vegetable oil
For the glaze: 1 tablespoon vegetable oil 1 large garlic clove, peeled and grated on a microplane (or crushed in a garlic press) 2 tablespoons white miso paste 2 tablespoons apricot jam 1 tablespoon rice vinegar 1 tablespoon water
Place the chicken thighs in a bowl. Drizzle with a little oil and season with salt. Mix to coat each piece and set aside in the refrigerator.
Heat your grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. While it is heating, make the glaze in a small saucepan. Warm the oil over medium heat and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until sizzling and fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently, and remove from heat.
Place the chicken thighs on the hot grill and let cook undisturbed until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip chicken and brush the tops with the warm glaze. Grill until browned on the second side. Flip, brush again with the glaze and grill for about one minute. Repeat two more times, so that each side has two coatings of glaze. Flip and grill for about one minute after the final glazing. Thighs should be slightly charred and cooked through to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Remove from grill and let rest for a few minutes before serving.
This glaze would work equally well on other chicken cuts, such as drumsticks, breasts, and bone-in chicken thighs. Adjust the initial cooking time so that the chicken is almost cooked through before you brush on the glaze.
Other types of miso paste, stone fruit jam and vinegar would be just as tasty. A couple ideas: yellow miso paste + peach jam + sherry vinegar, red miso paste + plum jam + red wine vinegar.