Friday, November 21, 2008

Cheap & Easy: Slow-Baked Shoyu Chicken Thighs

shoyu chicken
If you're looking for a inexpensive, fool-proof protein to round out your weekday meals, look no further than the lowly chicken thigh. (Do you know why? Chicken thigh.) At my grocery store, bone-in chicken thighs have been on sale nearly every week in recent months and I purchased an entire tray (10-12 small thighs) for around five dollars. And though thighs are sort of the red-headed-stepchild of the chicken carcass, they have it got all over breasts when it comes to flavor and moisture. Even a Picky Pete who normally shuns the flesh of the poultry thigh won't know the difference once it is slow-roasted in a tasty shoyu sauce.

This recipe for shoyu (Japanese/Hawaiian word for soy sauce) is a variation on the kind my Hawaiian family members have been making for years. And it meets all requirements of the BeanPlate Trifecta: cheap, tasty, simple. The shoyu sauce is mostly made up of just three ingredients in equal proportions:

three ingredients
Brown sugar, soy sauce, sherry. (If these ingredients were dwarves, they'd be Sweet, Salty, and Boozy.) (And remember how I promised another use for that sherry I pressured you to buy for the chicken pot pie? I am making good on that promise, people. Bust out the sherry.) The equal proportions make this recipe incredibly easy to remember and, depending on how much chicken you're making, effortless to halve and double.

I like to add a tablespoon or two of fresh-grated ginger. Fresh ginger root is one of those big-flavor items that also happens to be cheap, cheap, cheap; a good-sized hunk will only set you back fifty cents and it keeps (tightly wrapped) in the freezer. Crush a couple cloves of garlic, too, and...

stir it up
...stir the sugar, soy, sherry, ginger, and garlic together. The sauce, she is done.

you know why-
After removing the skin from the thighs (too graphic!)...

avert your eyes, vegans them on a broiler pan in two neat little rows.

Brush each with an ample amount of sauce and pop in a 325 degree oven. Bake for one hour and fifteen minutes but--here is the crucial step to keep them from drying out--every fifteen minutes or so, flip each piece over and add more sauce. Flip, flip, baste, baste, close the oven. Steam some rice and make a salad (or read blogs and watch illegal Top Chef clips on YouTube) between flips.

During the final fifteen minutes, you can sprinkle the tops with a few teaspoons of sesame seeds. After removing the chicken from the oven, you can pour off the extra sauce and pan drippings into a wee saucepan with the leftover marinade and quickly bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour a little of this sauce on each piece of chicken and sprinkle with chopped green onion before serving.

shoyu chicken
The sauce will be caramelized and gorgeous and really tasty with a pile of sticky steamed rice.

And just check out these tender thighs, huh? Not bad for five bucks.

(Click here for printable recipe.)

Shoyu Chicken from BeanPlate
serves 6, 2 thighs apiece

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup soy sauce
1-2 T. fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
sesame seeds(optional)
green onion (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine brown sugar, sherry, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in small bowl. Arrange chicken thighs on a broiler pan and lightly baste with sauce. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, flipping and basting the chicken every fifteen minutes. (If desired, sprinkle thighs with a few teaspoons of sesame seeds during final fifteen minutes of cooking time.) After removing chicken from oven, combine pan juices with remaining marinade in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Garnish chicken with sliced green onions and serve with steamed rice and warm shoyu sauce.


  1. I see so many recipes that use chicken thighs and I immediately dismiss them. I've never liked chicken thighs. And substituting breasts probably wouldn't work, right?
    This looks wonderful, though. I may have to take the plunge...

  2. Lovely! I like that it is a recipe easily adapted for two (really for 1 with leftovers).

    Chicken breasts so often cooked to the point of being dry and not so tasty. You've spent extra for what? The poor, pedestrian thigh is more forgiving and in this dish delish!

  3. I adore the chicken thigh. I barbeque these all summer long and my kids devour them. I buy them from an organic range-free outlet, frozen, they thaw out overnight in the fridge, so I think this weekend would love to see me basting and flipping some thighs for dinner. Yum!
    And I do still have that Sherry left over from said delicious potpie.

  4. My family prefers thighs to breasts. I'll try this one out very soon!

  5. Well you know I can't wax lyrical about *chicken* BUT, Top Chef! Just finished the series with Mark (the kiwi) in it. I never saw Stephanie taking that one out...but then I had Dale pegged for the finals over Lisa. More importantly, what on earth will I do on Friday nights now???

  6. I just made this for took no time at all and was really tasty. Thanks again!

  7. I'm making this tonight. Will let you know how it turns out. Love this new blog!

  8. I cannot wait to try this recipe - it looks yummy!

  9. Mmm. I love thighs. thanks for this idea!

  10. This look delicious! Can't wait to try!!

  11. Update: this was so good! Even my super duper irritatingly picky husband cleaned his plate!

  12. We make something very similar and it's a family favorite. My recipe is more complicated (and pricey) so I'm very excited about trying yours! I make my in an electric skillet that I keep covered and on medium heat. The chicken is melt-in-your-mouth moist!!!

  13. These were so cheap, easy and tasty! I got a little lazy about turning them, but it didn't matter!

    My son loved them. Too bad his dad and brother weren't home -- no leftovers!

  14. Hey!! That's my Japanese recipe!! :-D When I make this, I usually use sake (got way too much of that around here!!) and I use all the chicken parts I can find!! My Japanese hub is impressed by this....which is no easy thing to do!!
    Great recipe, dear!!
    This is such a great place to visit!!

  15. Guess what? Chicken butt.

    Couldn't resist.

    What an easy sauce! I'm thinking... I might need to try it on some shrimp. Mmmmm....

  16. I made this last night and it was yummy. Can't wait to make it again.

  17. I'm so glad the thighs have been successful! They are POWERFUL THIGHS.

    @ dkuroiwa: I use sake, too, when I have it on hand and it makes a really tasty sauce, doesn't it? I subbed sherry as a more affordable/available option, but would totally recommend trying it with sake when possible.

  18. Do you think this could be done in a crockpot?
    We love chicken thighs - cheap, juicy and flavorful. I almost always use them instead of the more expensive breast meat.
    I may just have to give it a try!

  19. My local grocery store had bulk bags o' thighs on sale this week and I thought "Wow. Melanie has great timing!" Oh! and these thighs are skinless so I can skip the de-skinning step.

    A quick question -- the recipe you gave is enough for 10 thighs? I should be able to freeze any leftover thighs, right? I'm trying to decide how many to make.

  20. I made this for dinner tonight, and my husband is now eagerly scooping the leftovers for his lunch tomorrow... Absolutely delicious! Thank you.

  21. Even teens like this chicken. This recipe should ahve been named "Thunder Thighs"! They gobbled it up and dug in for more and even liked the sauce drizzled over the jasmine rice. Next time I'll dbl. the sauce. So in a short phrase; Thank you!
    Ren in AZ

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  23. i came across this recipe when it was on w.c. and i loved it..i FINALLY got the cooking sherry to go with the thighs and what plan is to make it for dinner on tuesday night, which is the next night the hubby has off of work...

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