This Herby, One-Pot Chicken Dinner Has an Unlikely Hero

April  6, 2017

The March Bon Appetit’s “Dinner Tonight” column features a spread of recipes by chef Alex Raij. As the owner of four restaurants and mother of two, Alex says her secret to getting dinner on the table is improvisation—grabbing this and grabbing that, working with what she has on hand. She also reveals her secret for succulent chicken thighs: “Humble mayonnaise, which encourages browning.”

I see minimal prep in your future... Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Having had success with mayonnaise in surprising applications in the past—Gabrielle Hamilton’s genius grilled cheese and chocolate chicory cake, for instance—I needed no more convincing to make Alex’s mayonnaise-slicked chicken. The recipe at its core, moreover, looked simple: Toss potatoes with sliced onion, oil, and water in a roasting pan. Place bone-in, skin-on, mayonnaise-coated (and -marinated, if time permits) chicken thighs on top. Roast at 450º F until the chicken is lightly charred and cooked through.

For the amount of prep, which amounts to slicing an onion and stirring together two condiments, I’m not sure I’ve ever reaped such a great reward: exceptionally tender chicken and incredibly tasty potatoes flavored with the juices of the meat, the sweet, meltingly tender onions, and the olive oil. I’ve made the dish several times now with a few modifications to account for the ingredients I’ve had on hand and time limitations—not once have I marinated this chicken, and not once has it received anything but rave reviews.

From tarragon-y to oven ready... Photo by Alexandra Stafford

These are the keys to success here:

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1. Use smallish potatoes, ideally ones that require no chopping. Small fingerlings (or halved large ones) will work, as will new potatoes or whatever you can find at your market—I’ve been using honey golds. A small potato not only minimizes prep but also ensures it will cook completely through by the time the chicken is done.

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“I use the immersion blender when making mayo-far easier to clean if you haven't a dishwasher ”
— Deedledum

2. Monitor the water level: Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to add water to prevent the onions from getting too brown. See notes in the recipe.

3. Finish with herbs: Nothing says spring like tarragon! A showering of fresh herbs—chives, tarragon, parsley, or whatever you like best—just before serving brightens this dish up both color- and flavor-wise.

Effortless chic is a good look. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

I know mayonnaise, for some people, can be a hard sell, but before the inclusion of this ingredient turns you away, first consider what mayonnaise is: an emulsion of oil and egg often with a little lemon or vinegar. It’s harmless! If that’s not enough, know that whatever it is about mayonnaise that offends you—its smell, texture, appearance—dissipates in the oven. And if that’s not enough still, let the promise of a five-minute dinner prep show you the light—the result, I have no doubt, will make mayonnaise a page turner in your book no longer.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Tricia
  • Maurina Rachuba
    Maurina Rachuba
  • Alexandra Stafford
    Alexandra Stafford
  • Deedledum
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.


Tricia February 16, 2018
What other herb would work with this dish as I am not a huge fan of Tarragon. Would Sage be appropriate?
Alexandra S. February 20, 2018
A little bit of sage would be fine! Parsley or chives would be nice, too.
Maurina R. April 6, 2017
Most mayo haters I know have no problem with home made. Or with aioli. And either should work with this dish. Though it does take prep up a couple of notches. Or make the aioli ahead of time.
Alexandra S. April 6, 2017
I think you're right! And if you use a food processor, it takes no time (though you do have to clean it :)).
Deedledum April 9, 2017
I use the immersion blender when making mayo-far easier to clean if you haven't a dishwasher