I’m sure there were recipes that came before, but this one is fixed in my mind as, “where it all started.” The tipping point from cooking-to-survive to a home cooking obsession, and the start of venturing beyond the boundaries of the delicious meals my mother had taught me.
It’s a little odd that this sort of kitchen aha moment would result from boneless skinless chicken thighs. Less odd though if you know me, because the main reason I sub Deb’s wingettes for bite-sized chunks of dark meat is purely the laziness of not wanting to deal the mess and fuss of eating chicken wings. I know, I’m weird, but I promise you’ll like it too.
My boyfriend and I dork-ily first referred to this recipe as “magic chicken,” and the silly name stuck. Partially because the caramelization of the sauce tricks you into thinking it’s guilty-pleasure take-out. Mostly because it’s a bit magical how you can throw everything into a bowl, pop it in the oven, and half an hour later tuck into a satisfying, mostly balanced, dinner. I’ve included with it a simple recipe for stir-fried broccoli because it is my favorite accompaniment but I’m sure it would be good with any other veggie side of your choosing (perhaps some steamed edamame or spicy garlic green beans).
magic sesame chicken & stir-fried broccoli
Total time: 50 minutes
Serves: 4 people or 2 with leftovers
Source: Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen’s Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings
1.5-2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs
To make the chicken:
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a 9x13 inch glass baking dish with aluminum foil and coat it lightly with oil. Alternatively, you could also use baking sheet if there’s enough of a lip to tray but I’ve found it’s less of headache to use a larger vessel to avoid any spillage.
Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium-low heat, about 5 minutes. Toss the seeds occasionally to prevent them from burning – remove from the heat and set aside in a small bowl. Mince the garlic and mix together with hoisin sauce, soy sauce, mirin, honey, dark sesame oil, salt, and hot sesame oil in a large bowl.
Trim excess fat from the boneless skinless chicken thighs and cut into bite-sized pieces (1-2 inches). Add to the large bowl and stir to coat with the sauce. Spread the chicken pieces out across the baking dish and pour any remaining sauce in the bowl over the chicken. Make sure everything is more or less evenly spaced out. Place on the middle rack in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, turning the pieces over after 20 minutes.
While the chicken is baking, start your rice, chop the scallions, and make the stir-fried broccoli (see instructions below).
Once fully cooked, take the chicken out of the oven and transfer to a large serving bowl. Pour any collected sauce over the chicken and toss with the scallions and sesame seeds.
Serve with rice and stir-fried broccoli.
To make the broccoli:
Discard the woody stems of the broccoli and cut the florets into smaller pieces. Heat equal parts vegetable oil and sesame oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.
Add the broccoli florets and stir-fry until bright green – about 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce and do not touch the broccoli for 2 minutes (this allows the soy to sear the broccoli on one side). Stir the broccoli and add the mirin and red pepper flakes – turn the heat down to medium-low and cover to steam the broccoli for another 2 minutes, or until tender.