8 & $20: Apricot-Walnut Chicken

With autumn knocking on the door, set the table with this healthy plating of walnut- and gingersnap-crusted chicken thighs, paired with a juicy Italian white or French rosé
8 & $20: Apricot-Walnut Chicken
Crunchy baked chicken thighs are a kid-approved school-night favorite. (Samantha Falewée)
Sep 12, 2017

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

September means the kids are back in school. Across the country, many millions of children are once again catching early-morning school buses, demanding soccer-practice carpools and remembering tomorrow's homework just before bedtime. And at some point, they need to be fed.

For a healthy weeknight meal that kids will clamor for, try these crunchy baked chicken thighs that put a spin on the honey-dipped–and–cornflake-fried tradition with a jam-washed dredging in crushed walnuts and gingersnap cookie crumbs. What kid doesn't want cookies for dinner?

Chicken breasts are a fine substitute in this recipe, but juicier dark meat pieces like thighs work best. For the gingersnap "breading," aim for fine crumbs, closer to breadcrumb texture than cookie crumbles.

When dredging the chicken thighs in the walnut-gingersnap mix, err on the side of "more is better," but use a light touch with the apricot jam. This recipe serves 4, so the ratio may seem thin. Don’t worry. The jam's primary purpose is as a binding agent that also brings a hint of flavor—it's not intended to be a leading flavor component. With that in mind, opt for a jam that is smoothly pureed instead of a chunky mix. For best results, let the jam sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before applying it to the chicken.

Serve the chicken with a small side salad and garnish the dish with slices of apricot or sprigs of mint; canned fruit slices are fine for kids if fresh apricots aren't available.

For the adults, pair this recipe with a fruit-forward white wine or rosé. Aim for acidity that balances the wine, but doesn’t define it.

The best white wine pairing for me was a fresh, light-bodied wine from Sicily with notes of mild lemon, melon and cheesecake on the nose and that was clean and linear on the palate. The fruit flavors brought out the sweetness of the apricot and gingersnap crumbs. The wine’s light body complemented the chicken’s soft texture.

A juicy French rosé worked as well. Strawberry and raspberry jam notes on the palate complemented the light touch of apricot in the breading. Chicken is of course one of the universal wine-pairing proteins, so there's a wide range of wines you could pair here that would really shine.


Apricot-Walnut Chicken


Pair with a fruit-forward white like Rapitalà Grillo Sicilia 2015 (87 points, $14).

Alternative pairing: Henri Bourgeois Vin de Pays du Val de Loire Rosé Petit Bourgeois 2016 (84 points, $15)


Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Approximate food costs: $20

  • 1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, finely crushed
  • Dash of salt
  • 6 tablespoons apricot jam
  • 8 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 apricots, sliced, for plating

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Mix crumbs, walnuts and salt on a high-sided plate. On a separate plate, rub a small amount of jam onto each chicken thigh and dredge in the breading mixture, taking care to coat fully.

3. Place chicken thighs on a piece of parchment paper on a large pan, pour over a touch of olive oil and cook approximately 35 minutes. The jam helps lock in the chicken's moisture, so overcooking is less a concern if you choose to leave the thighs in the oven a little longer.

4. Garnish with apricot slices and a green salad. Serves 4.

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