Here’s your new favorite quick dinner method!
If you aren’t already making something like this all the time, obviously. I see recipes for chicken thighs all the time, and for good reason: they’re somewhat more affordable than chicken breasts, they have tons of flavor, and the possibilities for cooking them are just endless. I have on occasion found boneless, skin-ON chicken thighs, and that to me is the mother lode of all chicken cuts, hands down. This is mainly because we still eat dinner every single night on the couch (because Beck goes down before we eat, we’re only rotting OUR brains, don’t worry) and chicken bones are tough to navigate with one hand.
This method for cooking chicken thighs is so foolproof I can’t even waste too much time talking about it. The key is to be patient with searing the chicken skin so most of the fat renders out and the skin gets super crispy. Then we cook leeks and whole garlic cloves in the chicken drippings, add the chicken BACK in with some chicken stock and lemon, roast the whole thing, and done. Couldn’t be easier, and the leek/garlic/lemon combo is just unreal.
I thought about adding some fancier flavors and other ingredients to this, but the final product with just this short list was so good I decided to not mess with it. We have bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, leeks, whole garlic cloves (these were frozen leftover from something else), chicken stock/broth, lemon, and butter. Salt and pepper, maybe some fresh herbs for topping right at the end – whatever you have on hand.
First, preheat a large braiser or ovenproof skillet to medium heat with some olive oil and butter. Preheat the oven to 400F. While that’s happening, prep the leeks. They get sliced (take off any of the dry outer leaves) and then dunked in water to get all of the grit out, then fish them out of the bowl (the sand and grit will have sunk to the bottom) and dry them on a towel before you add them to the skillet.
When the pan is hot, sprinkle the chicken liberally with salt and pepper and add the thighs skin-side down. Let them sizzle and SIT without being disturbed for 8-9 minutes until they’re nice and browned and crispy, then flip them. You can check earlier than this if you think your pan is too hot, but we want a nice medium heat where the chicken sizzles but isn’t burning anything too quickly.
After you flip the chicken, brown it on the second side for 5 minutes then remove it to a plate while you build the rest of the sauce.
To the skillet and chicken drippings, add the leeks and garlic cloves. Stir them for two minutes and sprinkle them lightly with salt.
When the leeks have wilted just a bit, add the chicken stock to the pan and stir to release any chicken bits from the bottom of the pan, then nestle the chicken skin-side up back in the leek mixture. Cut the lemons in half and put them cut-side up in the skillet as well – the lemons will roast and release some of their juices as they cook.
Transfer the whole pan to the oven and roast uncovered for about 30 minutes or until the lemons have roasted and the sauce has reduced somewhat. You’ll still have a good bit of liquid in the pan – this is not a bad thing at all (see: mashed potatoes or rice please for serving).
Taste the sauce and add a few pinches of salt if you’d like, then swirl a few pats of butter right into the sauce – it should melt quickly.
Serve the chicken with the leeks and any other side dishes you’d like, and get to it. You can squeeze any leftover lemon juice into the sauce or serve the lemons with the chicken; the roasted lemon flavor is such a great addition to the sauce.
Please do not waste the chicken skin, I implore you. If it REALLY stresses you out, google how many calories are added by eating the skin of one chicken thigh one time, and maybe make a decision from there.
This is such a lovely, perfect spring dish – the lemons brighten up everything, the garlic cloves and leeks are tender and flavorful, and the chicken cooks perfectly in the broth – nothing dry or mealy about this AT ALL.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- olive oil, salt, pepper
- 6-8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 leeks
- 1 head garlic, peeled, cloves whole
- 2 lemons, halved
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- fresh herbs, any kind, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400F and a large skillet or braiser to medium heat.
While preheating, prep the leeks. Remove any tough outer stems/leaves and cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then thinly slice into half-moon shapes. Add the leeks to a bowl and fill with water. Swish the leeks around in the water and let sit for a few minutes; any grit or sand will sink to the bottom. Remove the leeks carefully to not disturb the dirt and let dry on a clean kitchen towel.
When the pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and two tablespoons of the butter. Sprinkle the chicken very liberally with salt and pepper and add the thighs cut side down to the pan. Let the chicken cook undisturbed for 8-9 minutes until the chicken skin is brown and crispy. Flip the chicken and cook for 5 minutes more, then remove to a plate.
Add the leeks and garlic cloves to the chicken drippings. Stir for two minutes, then add the chicken stock. Stir to release any chicken from the bottom of the skillet, then add the chicken skin-side up to the sauce. Add the lemons cut-side up to the sauce between the chicken pieces.
Roast the dish uncovered for about 30 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly and the lemons have browned. Remove from the oven and squeeze a bit of the lemon juice in to the sauce. Taste the sauce and add a few pinches of salt to your preference, then swirl in the remaining butter. Sprinkle with any fresh chopped herbs you'd like.
Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or with crusty bread. Enjoy!