Deputy food editor Hana Asbrink has 24 hours in the day and 379 things to get done. In her monthly column, Shortcut to Dinner, she lassos overachieving products to show weeknights who’s boss (it’s Hana).
Chicken thighs are a weeknight dinner mainstay and it’s obvious why. They’re fast to prepare (especially when boneless), hard to overcook, and take well to any number of applications. Today, we’re highlighting their versatility with a flavorful marinade that also doubles as a dip.
Zhug (sometimes spelled zhoug) is a powerhouse green sauce with origins in Yemen, though it’s enjoyed widely throughout the Middle East. It often contains cilantro, chiles, oil, garlic, and spices, and packs a welcome wallop. When I don’t have an abundance of herbs and chiles at the ready for homemade zhug—or the time to make it—I turn to my deli-case standby: Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce. Seasoned with cardamom and cumin seeds, TJ’s version is just the helper I need when it’s 5 p.m. and I still don’t know what to make for dinner.
Prepared zhug works as a condiment or spread, but really flexes its muscle when combined with Greek yogurt for a tasty marinade that also tenderizes meat. Yogurt tames some of zhug’s heat, rounding out the fiery edges with its cool tang. In this recipe, it comes in handy twice, as a marinade and sauce, and it can shine many more ways throughout the week (make a double batch!): as a salad dressing tomorrow, sandwich spread the next day, and on.
Zhug aside, I can’t talk about weeknight dinners without talking about the broiler. During the summer especially, this humble oven setting delivers charred flavor in short order—without heating up the entire apartment. “Who needs a grill when you have a broiler?” I tell myself every summer. Not me.
For this chicken, start by lining a sheet pan with foil (you’ll be glad you did come clean-up time) and setting a rack inside. Place the marinated chicken thighs on top of the rack (any excess marinade creates an A+ crust). Broil at the highest setting until you start to see some charring action along the edges. Remove the sheet pan, flip the chicken, and keep broiling until it’s gloriously crispy. As the meat rests, warm up some store-bought flatbreads (I like the Trader Joe’s Indian-Style Flatbread here), using the same broiler set-up for just a minute per side.
A simple tomato and onion salad makes a great accompaniment. You can use wedges of any ripe tomato you have (we like Campari or cherry); the juices get drawn out with a bit of salt, like a built-in dressing. And soaking the onion slices in cold water helps to remove their bite and perk up their crunch.
Wrap up everything into little parcels with torn pieces of flatbread and plenty of zhug yogurt for dunking. And keep lots of napkins nearby.
Store-bought zhug and your broiler are the shortcuts to juicy, charred chicken without a grill.