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Here are two great reasons to cook chicken thighs in a heavy skillet: the crisp skin and the fabulous fat it leaves behind. That fabulous fat is the base for a lush sauce that has endless variations; using this method, you'll never eat the same dish twice.

The only things you need are a heavy skillet, quality chicken and patience. First, cast iron is perfect because it will distribute the heat evenly and help keep the chicken skin from burning. It also ensures that the meat cooks slowly and all the way through.

For the chicken, please choose one that's free-range, or pastured. These healthy birds are free from antibiotics and have been raised outside in fresh air. Their thighs are meatier and tastier, and the meat is high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins.

Take your time when cooking skin-on chicken in a skillet. Keep the heat low and an eye on the pan. You want the skin to turn a lovely deep brown while it releases the fat that will baste the meat so it becomes tender and succulent. Do not try to sear the chicken as you would a steak or thinner skinless, boneless, chicken breasts.

The fun is in deciding how to season the sauce. The fats and juices will impart that rich chicken-y flavor and are perfect for sizzling up whatever you toss into the skillet — vegetables, sliced citrus, fruit, tangy, hot, savory, sweet, umami. In today's recipe, we used a fruit jam and stone-ground mustard.

To finish the dish, add cooked or canned beans, rice, pasta or whole grains right into the pan before plating; or just serve with hunks of crusty rustic bread. Dinner in one; dinner is done!

Skillet Chicken in Jammy Sauce

Serves 4.

Be patient as you cook the chicken in a heavy skillet over low heat. Allow time for the skin to become super crisp and render all that luscious fat. Then, toss sliced onion and garlic cloves into the skillet to caramelize, add a little wine for deglazing, and a spoonful or two of fruit jam (cherry, here) mixed with mustard, for a sweet-rough sauce. Serve with hunks of rustic bread. From Beth Dooley.

• 1/2 c. fruit jam of choice (cherry, apricot, orange marmalade, etc.)

• 1 tbsp. coarse Dijon mustard, or more to taste

• 2 to 2 1/2 lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, about 4 to 6

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Olive oil

• 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced

• 2 cloves garlic, peeled

• 1/2 c. dry white wine or stock


In a small bowl, whisk together the jam and mustard and set aside.

Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper. Film a heavy skillet with the oil and set over medium heat. When the oil begins to ripple, add the chicken, skin side down, pressing it into the pan. When the skin is a deep brown, after about 8 minutes, and most of the fat is rendered, use tongs to flip the chicken over and continue to cook through, about 10 to 12 minutes. (The chicken is cooked when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a thigh registers 165 degrees).

Use the tongs to transfer the chicken to a plate. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, until caramelized, about 2 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half. Return the chicken and coat with the jam mixture allowing some to drip into the pan, cooking until the chicken is nicely glazed. Serve with additional sauce passed on the side.

Beth Dooley is the author of "The Perennial Kitchen." Find her at