Hands down, chicken thighs are the best choice for an easy, no-fuss weeknight supper.
First, they're almost impossible to overcook. Unlike chicken breasts, the thighs are extremely forgiving, and the meat stays succulent even after reaching the 165-degree done mark. Because chicken thighs are a fattier cut of meat, they have a more intense flavor than breasts. But no worries — most of that fat renders out and bastes the meat, keeping it moist as it cooks. As a bonus, thighs are generally priced lower than breasts and if you buy them bone-in, they provide the base for a rich chicken stock.
When it comes to cooking, the best technique is to start them in a cold pan, skin-side down, then give them a blast of heat to sear them before flipping to finish in the oven. A little oil gets the process going, then add a handful of cherry tomatoes alongside the chicken thighs. They will blister, burst and release their juices, which, when deglazed with a little wine, becomes a light, bright sauce.
This method is open to a range of seasonal interpretations. In lieu of tomatoes, consider adding diced apples and scallions with a splash of hard cider at the end. Now that we're into fall, broccoli and cauliflower with a dash of lemon work well. In winter, try mushrooms and minced onions and a jigger of sherry and cream. Just season to taste.
The dish works beautifully on pasta, smashed potatoes or thick slices of toasted whole grain bread, served with a simple green salad on the side. Leftovers, if there are any, make wonderful sandwiches, salads, tacos and grain bowls. And, of course, the ultimate comfort food — chicken noodle soup.
Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs with Blistered Tomatoes
Note: This easy weeknight dinner gets the chicken crisping on the stove while the fat renders to baste the meat. A handful of cherry tomatoes is tossed into the pan to burst alongside. Use a large skillet so the chicken isn't crowded and has full contact with the surface. To serve, arrange the chicken and tomatoes on cooked pasta, cooked grains or toasted whole grain bread and drizzle with the sauce. From Beth Dooley.
• 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 1 1/2 lb. total
• Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 pint small cherry tomatoes
• 2 to 3 cloves garlic, smashed
• 1/2 c. dry white wine, or more as needed
• Cooked pasta, for serving (see Note)
• Torn parsley, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper on all sides.
Film a large skillet with the oil. Place the thighs skin-side down in the skillet. Set over medium heat and cook the chicken until the fat has rendered, the skin is nicely browned, and the thighs are easy to lift with a spatula, about 20 minutes. Flip the chicken, add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan, and place in the oven. Roast until the tomatoes have burst and the chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan and lift the chicken and tomatoes to a platter. Whisk the wine into the pan, making sure to lift up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom. Serve the chicken with the tomatoes and the pan sauces drizzled overall.
Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.