For crazy weeknights, try chicken dinner in a bag

Melissa d'Arabian
Associated Press

Life is busy. We don’t always have the luxury of thumbing through our favorite cookbooks, marking appealing recipes with sticky notes for dinners sometime off in the future when we will somehow have time to salt-cure a cod or dry-age a side of beef in our garage fridge. Sometimes, we just need to get dinner on the table. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should still be tasty and nutritious.

Enter the chicken leg and thigh.

Often overlooked by the healthy cook due to its higher fat content, dark chicken meat is underappreciated. Yes, the dark meat has a few more grams of fat than the white meat of the breasts (a 3 1/2-ounce serving of breast meat has about 4 grams of fat, while the same amount of dark meat has just under 6 grams). And the higher cholesterol of the dark meat means the breast probably still should be in your rotation.

But chicken legs and thighs are luscious in texture and full of flavor and protein (about 28 grams per serving). They also are much lower in saturated fat than most cuts of red meat, and they offer more iron per serving than chicken breasts. Perhaps most important of all for the busy weeknight cook is that bone-in dark meat chicken is very forgiving in terms of cooking time. Which is to say, it is very hard to overcook dark chicken meat.

Because of that, on busy weeknights — most nights — I totally appreciate the forgiveness offered by the dark meat.

Lemon Chicken in a Bag

8 bone-in chicken drumsticks or thighs, or a mix

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 large red or yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

4 medium red potatoes, halved

Using a paper towel in each hand to help grip the chicken pieces, remove and discard the skin.

In a 2-gallon zip-close plastic bag, mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes (if using), and a hefty pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the chicken, onion and potatoes, seal the bag and gently turn over several times to evenly coat the contents with the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 12 hours, turning the bag once or twice, if convenient.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Dump the contents of the bag onto the pan, spread into an even layer, then bake uncovered until the chicken registers 175 degrees at the thickest parts, about 40 minutes. If the potatoes and onions brown too quickly on one side, turn them for more even cooking. Serves 4.

Per serving: 610 calories; 25 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 36 percent calories from fat); 40 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 240 mg cholesterol; 540 mg sodium; 55 g protein; 5 g fiber.