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I lived in Birmingham, Alabama for 2 years, and when people ask me how my time was while I was there, the first thing I think of is...chicken thighs. Let’s just say that my social life in the deep South wasn’t anything to write home about. I had 3 friends (quality not quantity amiright?!), and rather than taking the town on a Friday night, we’d hang in my apartment and cook. For whatever reason, chicken thighs were always on the menu (#ThighDayFriday). I may not have any wild Birmingham stories about the times that I stayed out until 4 AM or partied with Mark Ruffalo’s nephew, but I do have a knowledge of cooking chicken thighs that you simply can’t put a price on.
We experimented with different recipes and different techniques, so naturally, we learned what worked and what didn’t (the only way to do this is to, of course, serve a medium-rare chicken thigh...oops, sorry friends). Friday nights came and went, and every week, our chicken thigh dinners came out even more delicious than the last. The skin was crispier, the meat was more succulent, and the pan juice was even more delightful. One of our favorite chicken thigh recipes was this one, by Alison Roman, which is the inspiration behind this easy dinner. If you ask me, the choice between a fruitful social life or a hearty chicken thigh is a no-brainer.
While it may seem counterintuitive to start the thighs in a cold skillet, this method is the key to irresistibly crispy skin. This technique allows for the most fat to be rendered from the chicken, thus yielding a skin so crispy that your neighbors will hear you crunching all the way from your kitchen. Another tip to keep in mind when cooking thighs is to harness as much patience as humanly possible. Resist the urge to fuss and prod at the chicken while it’s cooking—–rather, let the thighs cook undisturbed, so that when it’s time to flip them, the skin is perfectly crisp and intact. If you prefer, you could cook the thighs completely through on the stovetop, but we prefer to finish them off in the oven to ensure an even and thorough bake throughout the entire dish.
- 1 orange, thinly sliced and seeded
- 2 shallots, peeled and cut into thin rings
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, To Taste
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 pounds, (4 large) bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 bunch (5 ounces) curly green kale, ribs removed and leaves torn
- Flaky sea salt, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, toss orange slices, shallot, thyme, and salt. Let sit until the orange slices and shallots are slightly softened, 10 minutes.
Using a paper towel, pat chicken thighs dry. Season generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.
Cook thighs, skin-side down and undisturbed, until skin is slightly golden brown and crisp, 9-11 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and cook until skin is a deep brown, about 2 more minutes. Flip thighs and cook until bottom side is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer thighs to a paper towel-lined plate. (The chicken will not be fully cooked through at this point.)
Add orange and shallot mixture to the skillet with the chicken fat in a single layer. Cook over medium-high heat, until the citrus is caramelized, about 4 minutes per side. Add the orange juice and broth, and let reduce by half. Add the beans and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Working in batches, add kale and cook until slightly wilted, about 1 minute. Return chicken thighs to the pan, skin-side up.Transfer to oven and cook until chicken is completely cooked through, 12-15 minutes.
Finish with flaky salt, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.