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May 9, 2022
Kendra Adachi Is a Chicken Thigh Evangelist for Life

The Lazy Genius Kitchen author has good advice for shopping, cooking, and avoiding chicken breasts forever.

There’s a strategy for everything these days, with sleeping hacks, prescriptive fasts, and other forms of sage life advice flooding our feeds and inboxes day and night. Popular podcaster and author Kendra Adachi has her own strategy, too, and it involves thinking deeper about acts of laziness—laziness being the opposite of productivity, the oil for the gears of procrastination. Embracing laziness is translated through Adachi’s brand, Lazy Genius, as the act of essentially knowing when to care and knowing when, to cite another self-help author, to not give a f*ck.

In an informative and funny new book, The Lazy Genius Kitchen, Adachi sets a plan for home cooks of all skill levels to prepare meals with greater efficiency, less stress, and (hopefully) more delicious results. “You don’t need magical recipes, fancy gadgets, or daunting lists to follow to the letter,” Adachi promises. “You just need a framework that works whether you’re cooking for one or for twenty.” I reached out to Adachi to find out what matters and what doesn’t, and to hear some high praise for always cooking with dark meat.    

Before we get to the cooking ideas and strategy, what exactly is a “lazy genius”?
A lazy genius is a genius about the things that matter—and lazy about the things that don’t! When you try to make everything matter, you’re exhausted. When you decide to not care about anything, you’re not fulfilled. A lazy genius lives in the wide middle, caring about what matters to them personally and kindly letting the rest go.

So why, then, is the kitchen such a rich place to apply this philosophy?
So many things can matter in the kitchen. Let’s look at meals. We want recipes that taste good, right? Of course. We also want recipes that use fresh ingredients, that are family-friendly but not the same old same old, that are inexpensive, healthy, and easy to throw together, and that don’t take too long. Frankly, that’s a hard ask. We’re making too many things matter. Instead, we each have to decide what matters most about our meals, and then we have a better lens for what recipes to look for. And that’s just with choosing meals! The same is true for how we organize our kitchen, what tools we keep, what we shop for, how we plan and prep meals, and even how we gather around the table. The kitchen is full of things that could matter—and we will enjoy our time there when we name what matters most.

You have a smart section defining “What Matters.” Can you name three areas that matter the most and three that matter the least?
Everyone gets to choose, but for my kitchen, three areas that matter most are function (I want my stuff to work), aesthetics (I like my stuff to look nice), and ease (please don’t make me work hard; I have a job and three kids!). Three areas that matter the least are variety (we eat the same things on a rotation), quality (if something cheap works, I’ll use it until it doesn’t and get another cheap thing), and perfection (no, thank you).

Let’s talk about your background in the kitchen—what do you most enjoy cooking for yourself and your family?
I love making anything my family doesn’t complain about, which, frankly, is not many things. I have three kids with three sets of preferences, so anything that makes everyone happy is a treat for me. I love making chicken tikka masala because the whole family loves it, but it’s also a gratifying cooking experience for me. While I do love cooking, I enjoy baking more. That’s where most of my enjoyment comes from.

Is there a “reach” dish you have mastered?
I love this question. I haven’t made any recipes that would be reaches for me, like Beef Wellington or a rib roast. Since ease matters most in the kitchen, I don’t often challenge myself. However, I do when it comes to baking. I’ve made puff pastry from scratch, intricate cakes, and a mille-feuille once. That was quite a reach . . . one I will likely not spend time on again. That’s a commitment, y’all.

You wisely make a case for high-temperature roasting for chicken—what are the other keys to “change your life” chicken?
I am a chicken thigh evangelist for life. If I never had to eat or cook a chicken breast again, I’d be fine with it. The fat in chicken thighs makes that cut so much more forgiving, as opposed to chicken breasts, where I have to add fat and flavor and pound them thin so they cook evenly. Because I’m a lazy genius and can choose what I’ll be lazy about, I am totally lazy about chicken breasts. They require too much effort for me to stay tender, have great flavor, and not require a lot of attention. They’re like the avocado of chicken; you have a very narrow window where the chicken is perfect.

Okay, last question. What did you make for dinner last night?
Homemade hamburger helper! It’s a staple in our house when I need something fast but don’t want to eat spaghetti again.

Matt Rodbard

Matt Rodbard is the editor in chief of TASTE and author of Koreatown: A Cookbook, a New York Times best-seller, and Food IQ: 100 Questions, Answers, and Recipes to Raise Your Cooking Smarts.