Weekly Winner: Conquering the Perfect Thigh – chicken, that is!

IMG_0853I love bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs,  but rarely am I able to prepare them perfectly. They are either underdone, overdone, flabby skinned or the skin rips off and sticks to the pan when I go to turn them over.  The struggle is real!! But still, I keep trying.  I’ve tried nonstick pans, I’ve tried broiling (to avoid turning), I’ve tried grilling … you name it, I’ve attempted it, with varying degrees of success but never anything near perfection.

So when I saw the recipe for One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo from Bon Appetit magazine, I was skeptical.  But as usual, I was drawn to the picture of perfectly bronzed, crispy-skinned chicken thighs.  I would give it one more try.  Can I just say…….. NAILED IT!

If I can do it, you can too.  I think the secret is the cast iron skilled and a cast-iron will not touch them for a good 7-8 minutes (I literally had to leave the kitchen so not to be tempted to poke around and mess with them).  Finishing them in the oven makes sure they get cooked all the way through.

One-Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo

Serves 4


Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 pounds total), patted dry

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

1 fennel bulb, chopped, plus fronds, chopped

1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped

8 oz orzo

1/3 cup dry white wine

2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Rain salt and then some pepper all over chicken.  Heat 2 Tbsp butter in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-high.  Nestle chicken, skin side down, in skillet in a single layer with no gaps. Cook until meat is opaque around the edges and skin is deep golden brown, 6-8 minutes.  Turn chicken skin side up and transfer skillet to oven; bake, uncovered until chicken is cooked through, 10-15 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a plate.
  2. Set the same skillet over medium; combine fennel bulb and leek in skillet and sprinkle in some salt and pepper.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until leek is looking golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.  Add orzo and cook until pasta is darkened (it will take on a brown hue) to a nice nutty brown in spots and toasty smelling, about 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in wine and cook, stirring, until liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and letting broth absorb before adding more, until orzo is tender and broth is mostly absorbed but pan is not dry, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove skillet from heat, taste and add more salt and pepper to your liking; mix in lemon juice and remaining 1 Tbsp butter, then chopped fennel fronds.  Serve chicken on top of orzo and finish with lemon zest

Weekly Winner:  Crispy and Smoky One-Pot Wonderfulness

I love crispy chicken thighs, and I do truly, dearly love any meal that can be completed using only one pan or pot.  Last night’s dinner gave me both of my loves on one plate. Crispy Chicken Thighs with Smoky Chickpeas made for an incredibly satisfying and healthy Tuesday night dinner.

The recipe comes from Country Living and is about the easiest thing you can think of.  Sear some chicken, mix everything up and throw it in the oven until its done.  The real genius here though, is with the yogurt it’s served with.  Just enough cool creaminess to really bring the dish together.

It’s a simple dish – both in preparation, ingredients and execution.  But sometimes simple is the most satisfying – as is this dinner.

Crispy Chicken Thighs with Smoky Chickpeas

Serves 4


3 tsp. canola oil

8 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

1/2 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1½ tsp. smoked paprika

½ tsp. ground cumin

1 pt. grape tomatoes

2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed

fresh thyme leaves, For serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ c. plain Greek yogurt



Preheat oven to 425°F. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook, in batches, skin side down until skin is browned and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate; reserve skillet.
Add onion and garlic to reserved skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in paprika and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and chickpeas, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Nestle chicken into mixture, skin side up.

Roast in oven until the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves and yogurt alongside.

Weekly Winner:  A Flavor Bomb of Sticky, Tangy Goodness

I’ve discovered a new obsession.  It started innocently enough with needing to purchase if for a salad a client requested.  I had never heard of the stuff and actually had a bit of trouble finding it.  Then I did find it…and I tried it….and I’ve been using it on anything I can think of.  What is it? Pomegranate Molasses.  Seriously, this stuff rocks!  It’s a tart, sweet, sticky, fruity miracle.  Luckily it is also becoming hip which means its showing up in more recipes and is also getting a bit easier to find, although I still mail order mine.

The latest success with using pomegranate molasses was in Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken Thighs.  Less of a success was my attempt at photographing it, but hopefully the recipe and description will make up for it!  I got the recipe from Fine Cooking and man, is there a lot going on in this dish with only a few ingredients.  The only other hard to find ingredient is za’atar spice blend, which I easily mixed up once I knew what it was.  The heat of the red pepper flakes with the depth of the garlic, the earthiness of the za’atar spice blend (trust me on this, google it and make your own to keep on hand), the crunch of the walnuts and the magic that is pomegranate molasses all combine for an amazing dish. Which is more than I can say for the picture.

Pomegranate-Glazed Chicken Thighs

Serves 4


2 Tbsp cornstarch

2 Tbsp za’atar

1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or crushed red pepper flakes

1-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

4 tsp vegetable oil

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses [it’s quite possible I doubled this amount]

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped

Lemon wedges, for serving.


  • In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, za’atar, and Aleppo pepper.  In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the garlic and season generously with salt and pepper.  Rub the spice mixture into the chicken.
  • Heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Flip and cook the second side until browned, another 6 to 8 minutes.  Drizzle with the pomegranate molasses, sprinkle with the scallion and nuts, and serve with the lemon wedges.

Weekly Winner:  Moroccan Magic -All on one sheet pan!

I don’t mind complicated, time-consuming recipes. If I know that the end result is going to be a meal with wonderful, complex flavors and textures I will gladly tend to a dish for however long it takes.  Sometimes, cooking really is a labor of love and a definite time commitment.  Having said all that, if I can throw some meat in a marinade for a few hours and then dump an entire meal on a sheet pan and walk away for a while and come back and be blown away with the results — sign me up!!  That’s what happened last night when hubby and I were transported to Morocco after only investing about 20 minutes of active prep time in the kitchen.

Our magic carpet to Morocco was Curried Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives compliments of Fine Cooking magazine.  This dish has a ton going on flavor-wise and is an absolute breeze to prepare.  The spices in the chicken give it a definite kick but the sweetness of the apricots and the briny punch of the olives brought the whole dish together.  As easy as it was to make — it’s even easier to clean up!    This will definitely find its way into heavy rotation here during the busy fall and winter months.  To be honest, the recipe does call for 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro to be sprinkled on the dish before serving, but seriously folks, you know me…. that is not happening!

Curried Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

Serves 4


8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 lbs total)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

4 tsp curry powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Kosher salt

1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apricots, soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained

1 cup pitted green olives, halved or quartered if large

1 large lemon, cut into 4 wedges


In a medium bowl, combine the chicken thighs with 2 Tbsp of the oil, the vinegar, 2 tsp of the curry powder, 1/2 tsp of the paprika, the cinnamon, cayenne, and 3/4 tsp salt, tossing to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or up to overnight.

Position rack in the center of oven and preheat oven to 450F degrees.  Line a large rimmed sheet pan with parchment.  On the pan, combine the cauliflower with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil, 2 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp paprika, and 3/4 tsp salt, tossing to coat.  Add the apricots and olives and spread in a single layer.

Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, fold them back into their original shape, and place them on top of the cauliflower, spaced evenly apart. (Discard any remaining marinade). Roast, rotating the pan halfway through until the cauliflower browns and the chicken cooks through (165F), about 35 minutes.

Remove chicken from the pan and toss the cauliflower mixture with the pan drippings.  Serve with lemon wedges on the side.