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Originally published Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 3:01 PM

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Recipe: Stout-Braised Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs are easy to fix and have a bit more flavor than chicken breasts.

For The Associated Press

Most health-conscious cooks focus on boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

It makes sense. This ubiquitous piece of the bird is convenient, versatile and virtually fat-free. But there are other — and often overlooked — options on the same bird. The more flavorful, and just as convenient boneless, skinless thigh really should be near the top of your shopping list. Here's why:

While it is true that the humble thigh is fattier than the breast — about 7 grams per 3-ounce cooked portion — that fat brings with it the extra flavor and moisture breasts can so often lack. Plus, the dark meat of the thigh contains the nutritional jackpot of considerably more iron and twice the zinc of white meat.

That extra fat also means that it's harder to ruin a chicken thigh recipe, even with quick, high-heat cooking. Unlike with chicken breasts, it's difficult to end up with a flavorless, overcooked, shoe-leather dry chicken thigh.

Boneless, skinless thighs are just as convenient as breasts (although you may want to trim off any extra bits of fat) but they do take just a little bit longer to cook, which makes them well suited to absorb plenty of smokiness on the grill or flavor from a sauce during a stovetop braise.

This recipe for stout-braised chicken thighs, which is perfect for St. Patrick's Day, combines two techniques: flash browning over high heat and a quick, low-heat braise. By switching around the sauce ingredients you can turn this method for cooking thighs into an endless variety of dishes

Here, the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of a stout beer such as Guinness (you can drink the rest while the thighs are braising), and just a single strip of chopped bacon to make a smoky, malty sauce that's nicely balanced by the sweetness of peas, carrots and onions, plus the earthiness of a handful of mushrooms.

Serve with mashed potatoes or even an Irish colcannon (potatoes mashed with kale or cabbage) to help soak up all the dark and flavorful sauce.

Stout-Braised Chicken Thighs

Makes 4 servings

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

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1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 slice bacon, finely chopped

1 small yellow onion, diced

3/4 cup baby carrots

4 ounces button cremini or baby bella mushrooms, halved

3/4 cup stout, such as Guinness

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup frozen baby peas

1. In a shallow dish, combine 1/4 cup of the flour with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper. Dredge the chicken thighs in the flour mixture to coat completely, then set on a plate.

2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the chicken thighs and cook until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.

3. Add the bacon to the skillet and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the onion, carrots and mushrooms and saute until the vegetables begin to brown, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes.

4. Add the stout and broth to the pan and bring to a boil using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the thighs to the pan, nestling them among the vegetables. Reduce the heat until the liquid is gently simmering, then cover and cook for 15 minutes.

5. Add the peas and cook, covered, for 5 minutes more. Uncover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes more, check the thighs for doneness. Season with salt and pepper and serve the chicken with vegetables and sauce spooned over the top.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 409 calories; 180 calories from fat (44 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 98 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 31 g protein; 2 g fiber; 397 mg sodium.

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