It’s felt like a long time since I posted a recipe. My day-to-day life has gone through some changes throughout the summer, and my cooking briefly transformed into a thought-free, just-get-the-food-onto-the-plate procedure. This was unfortunate, since the serenity of my “kitchen time” is one of my happiest places. Changes in my schedule have thrown me a little off-kilter, and I’ve had to learn how to motivate myself when external forces aren’t doing it for me. Basically, I’m re-learning how to be a big kid, and with only partial success. And since I’ve felt more and more like a “partial adult”, the box of tropical fruit roll-ups I just bought are reasonable, if not necessary.
Sometimes when there are changes in life beyond your control, and no open road within close reach, all you can do is move onto the next recipe.
There had been a package of double zip-locked chicken thighs in the back of my freezer for some time. I had systematically ignored their presence with every trip to the ice cube trays. I was mildly intimidated by my package of frozen chicken…would I be able to crisp the skin just right in my frazzled, un-organized state? Would I forget to open a bottle of wine? Would I forget to buy one?!? Daunting was that frozen poultry.
I decided that it was time to get back up on the horse. I had to do those chicken thighs proud. I had never actually cooked the thighs before, but their hearty flavor and longer cook time intrigued me. I knew that I could find a way to roast tantalizing flavor into that skin.
Lemon & Caper Chicken Thighs
Serves 2. Broke alert: my package of Fairway chicken thighs was under $4!
-1lb-1.25lb of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
-2 large lemons, 1 juiced and zested, 1 sliced thin
-Seasoning: lemon sea salt (or plain sea salt w/lemon zest), garlic powder, rosemary, black pepper, honey granules (if available).
-2 tablespoons of minced garlic
-2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, to taste
-3 tablespoons of capers
-Olive oil and butter
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Rub chicken thighs with olive oil and sprinkle with all seasonings, top and bottom. Lightly oil a frying pan and place over medium (not too high) heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin side down, and be sure they are not too crowded. Placing the chicken directly into a cold pan fiercely violated every culinary instinct that I had, but it helps to crisp the skin properly.
Sear chicken for about 10 minutes without flipping it over. Leaving it alone until the skin crisps will ensure that it doesn’t break off when you slide a spatula underneath. Monitor the heat while it sears, and turn it down slightly if it looks like it’s browning too quickly. Once the skin is lightly crisp, flip chicken over and cook for several more minutes.
Remove chicken from the pan and take the pan off the heat (don’t get rid of it just yet). In a thick ceramic baking dish (like shown), coat with olive oil and cover the bottom of the dish with thin slices of lemon. Place chicken, skin side up, on top of the lemons. Sprinkle garlic on and around chicken and add a splash of lemon. Bake at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes, until cooked through. Remove chicken from the oven and pour the gathered juices from the bottom of the dish into a small bowl. Cover chicken loosely with foil to rest.
Place your original frying pan back over low-to-medium heat. Skim off some of the fat from your “chicken juice” and add the remainder to the pan, along with the lemon juice and zest. Reduce juices for a couple of minutes. Add Dijon mustard (more or less, to taste) and capers, stirring and cooking for another minute. If any additional “chicken juice” has formed under the resting chicken, add to the sauce. Once the flavor is bold and tangy, swirl in a couple tablespoons of butter and remove from the heat.
Serve chicken with the caramelized lemon slices on top, and spoon all pan sauces over the combination. The chicken should be hearty and extra juicy, with a thin and crispy skin. The sweet tang of the lemon is complimented by the bold, vinegar flavor of the capers and the smoothness of the chicken juice. I recommend pairing it with something fresh and light, like steamed broccoli or a veggie salad (my choice).