If nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven, then this meal was the purest expression of affection imaginable. Also, it tasted delicious, wasn’t overly expensive, and was pretty damn healthy to boot. Wins for everyone!
So in the eternal quest for slenderness, I’ve been trying to cut down on carbs (specifically grains). This is probably easier to do in Portland than just about anywhere else, since we’re home to lots of food-weirdness-pandering palaces like Dick’s Kitchen, where I recently had a stellar kale salad with vegan Caesar dressing and grilled grass-fed beef patty, but that’s another story and will be told another time.
But if you’ve ever tried to cut carbs and grains out of your diet, you may have noticed one problem in particular: “Real food” meats and veggies can be, to put it mildly, crazy expensive. I’d personally love to dine on nothing but organic hand-raised pasture-fed critters and produce lovingly gathered at daybreak from family-owned farm stands, but the reality of our budget (currently -$13 in the checking account, yay!) pretty much limits our grocery shopping to whatever is on sale at WinCo, Fred Meyer, or (occasionally) New Seasons. (New Seasons has the best milk. Seriously. It is so good.)
So when I found family packs of chicken thighs on sale at Fred Meyer for 79 cents a pound (in the Used Meat section, no less), I jumped on that like it was a Pony and I was a Cutie Mark. Brought home 4 pounds of chicken thighs, tried pan-roasting half of them the first night, and was so happy with the results that I cooked the rest the same way the next night and served them over an artichoke and olive tapenade.
The skin on the thighs crisps and browns perfectly so that it breaks into little shards of deliciousness when you crunch into it. The tart, salty bite of the tapenade stands up to the chicken’s velvety richness, and the mildness of the roasted cauliflower and radishes (roasted radishes lose nearly all their pepperiness) makes a delicious foil to the meal’s other strong flavors.
The chicken is done from start to finish in about half an hour, and most of that is just unattended cooking time. The tapenade is easy to make ahead if you like (next time I’ll probably make a full or double recipe just so we have it sitting around). You can even prep the cauliflower and radishes earlier, leave them sitting on the counter, and go spend 45 minutes watching “Legend of the Seeker” like I did last night. Everything roasts at the same temperature, so it doesn’t require any finessing (though you’ll probably want to do some rearranging halfway through cooking if you’ve got a wee tiny oven like I do).
- 4-6 medium to large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- Coarse kosher or sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp peanut (or vegetable) oil
Preheat oven to 475°. Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Set a large cast iron skillet over high heat and add the oil. Heat oil until it is shimmering but not smoking (if you see smoke, turn the heat down just a bit). Add chicken, skin side down, and cook for two minutes. Reduce heat to medium-high, rotate pan a quarter turn, and continue cooking until skin is deeply golden brown and fat has rendered, about 12 minutes. Rearrange chicken pieces and rotate pan another quarter turn every few minutes so chicken cooks evenly. Watch for spattering!
Carefully transfer pan to hot oven and roast an additional 13 minutes. (If you have an exhaust hood, you might want to turn the fan on. If, like me, you aren’t that fancy, you might want to open a kitchen window in case of smoke.) Flip chicken pieces and roast, skin side up, an additional 5 minutes or so. Remove from oven, transfer chicken to plate, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Seriously. That’s it. Unless you want to get all crunchy-Portland like me, in which case you can let the hot chicken fat cool slightly, then strain it through cheesecloth or a fine-meshed sieve into a ubiquitous Mason jar. Look: Schmaltz! You can cook with it (fried potatoes ZOMG) or add a little to any savory dish to boost its savory goodness factor.
Serve chicken, if you like, on a bed of this exquisitely yummy tapenade:
- 1 can water-packed artichoke hearts, drained
- About 3/4 cup pitted green olives (I used Castelvetranos), drained if packed in brine
- 2 tsp capers, drained
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- Salt to taste
In a food processor, combine artichoke hearts, olives, capers ,garlic, parsley, and cayenne. Pulse until well chopped but not completely smooth, scraping down sides occasionally. Remove any large, tough chunks of recalcitrant artichoke. Continue pureeing while drizzling in 2 Tbsp olive oil; puree to desired smoothness (I thought it was nice to retain a little body). Taste and add more cayenne plus salt if needed (it won’t need much, if any). Set aside, or refrigerate if not serving for a while. Let it come back to room temperature before serving. Just before serving, stir in remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil and recheck for seasoning. (You may end up eating a good quarter-cup or so at this point, just to “make sure it’s all right.”)
Dab about 1/3 cup tapenade onto each plate and top with roasted chicken thighs.Roasted Cauliflower and/or Radishes
- 1 head cauliflower and/or 2 bunches radishes
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper and red pepper flakes if you like
- Juice of 1 lemon
Preheat oven to 475°. Chop or break cauliflower into florets. Scrub, top & tail, and halve radishes (cut into thirds if they’re large). Toss each vegetable separately with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Add red pepper flakes to the cauliflower if you want it spicy. (Also a good option: a teaspoon or two of curry powder; whisk this into the olive oil before tossing.) Spread (again, separately) on rimmed baking sheets. Roast 15-20 minutes or until tender, stirring halfway through and rearranging pans if your oven tends to have hot and cold spots (as mine does). Toss radishes with lemon juice before serving.