There are 379 tasks on Hana Asbrink’s to-do list as deputy food editor, and only 24 hours in the day. Shortcut to Dinner is her monthly column where she catches overachievers in the marketplace and uses them to prove to weeknights who really runs the show (Hana).
It’s no mystery why chicken thighs are such a common weeknight meal option. They can be prepared quickly (especially if boneless), are difficult to overcook, and can be used in a wide variety of ways. Now we’re going to show off their adaptability by using a marinade that can also be used as a dip.
The Middle Eastern country of Yemen is the birthplace of a potent green sauce known as zhug (or zhoug). It packs a welcome punch thanks to ingredients like cilantro, chiles, oil, garlic, and spices. Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce is my go-to when I don’t feel like (or don’t have the time for) making my own from scratch. TJ’s version, which is seasoned with cardamom and cumin seeds, is just the aid I need when it’s already 5 o’clock and I have no idea what to make for dinner.
Zhug, once prepared, can be used as a spread or condiment, but it truly comes into its own when combined with Greek yogurt to make a marinade that not only tastes great but also tenderizes the meat. Zhug can be tamed by the cool tang of yogurt, which smoothes out the spice. Make a double batch because it will be used not only as a marinade and sauce in this recipe, but also as a salad dressing and sandwich spread in the days to come.
Forget the zhug; the broiler is an indispensable part of my weeknight repertoire. This simple oven setting is perfect for the warmer months because it quickly produces charred flavor without overheating the entire home. When you have a broiler, you don’t need a grill. To myself, every summer. Not me.
Prepare a sheet pan with foil (you’ll be thankful you did when it’s time to clean up) and a rack for the chicken. On top of the rack, lay the chicken thighs that have been marinated (the extra marinade will make a fantastic crust). Set the broiler to its highest setting and leave it there until the edges begin to char. Take out the baking sheet, turn the chicken over, and continue broiling until it is perfectly browned and crispy. While the meat is resting, preheat some flatbreads under the broiler for a minute on each side (I recommend the Indian-Style Flatbread from Trader Joe’s).
A tomato and onion salad on the side would be perfect. You can use Campari or cherry tomatoes, but any ripe variety will do; a pinch of salt will help draw out the tomato’s natural juices, turning them into a flavorful dressing. Plus, soaking the onion slices in cold water takes away their bite and brings back their crunch.
Prepare a large bowl of zhug yogurt for dipping and use torn pieces of flatbread to make individual servings. Be sure to have plenty of napkins on hand.
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