You really can’t beat chicken thighs when it comes to having the best of both worlds. You have the crispy skin along with the tender moist dark meat that makes it truly satisfying. This is a dish that I make at the start of the week to get my taste buds going, it’s incredibly tasty, and I even enjoy it cold out of the refrigerator.
The succulent thighs pair nicely with some of my favorite ingredients: Gaeta olives happen to be my favorite type of olive, they’re salty and briny with good bitterness and you get a strong olive flavor that comes through. They’re great for salads, antipasti, and I refuse to make spaghetti Puttanesca without having these on hand. The cherry tomatoes are added for acidity to cut through some of the richness, and the rosemary perfumes the whole dish to another level. Once you bring garlic to the party, you can’t go wrong with these flavors. They were just meant to be together.
I like to serve this over a bed of Mediterranean Couscous, the juices find their way down the plate, and you get these amazing bites of moist steamy couscous.
To make simple baked chicken thighs, I start by deboning a package of chicken thighs. It involves some work on your part, but if you’re patient you will realize how easy, cheap, and therapeutic it is to do your own butchering at home. Save the bones for stock if you prefer, then once the thighs are boned, I like to pat them dry with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. I prefer to use a Lodge Cast Iron skillet to cook the thighs. It’s heavy and it maintains the heat very well in order to ensure a nice crispy skin. —James Durazzo
To debone the chicken thighs, run your knife along both sides of the bone, and scrape away the flesh from the bone. The meat should fall off as you scrape it cleanly with a sharp kitchen boning knife. Trim any excess fat along the edges. Pat the skin surface of each thigh with paper towel to remove moisture.
Heat the cast iron skillet on medium flame, Season the thighs with salt, black pepper, and rub with olive oil. Place into the skillet skin side down. Let them cook for about a minute to bring some heat into them before you place them into the oven to bake.
Before placing into an oven, add in the cherry tomatoes, Gaeta olives, rosemary sprigs, and garlic cloves. Add in the sherry vinegar and let this burn off. Add the chicken stock into the skillet, then place into a preheated 420 degree oven.
I bake this for 15-20 minutes at high heat. I know when it’s done when I see that the skin is golden and amber in color, and the tomatoes are nicely roasted along with the garlic.
I like to deglaze the pan with chicken stock, and a small knob of butter.
For the Couscous, in a saucepan add chicken stock or water and salt, and bring to a low simmer. Stir in the couscous slowly. Cover with a lid, and remove from heat. Let this sit for 8-10 minutes,
Remove lid, add minced parsley, and fluff with a fork. Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive oil on top.
To serve this, I like to pile a nice mound of the couscous on a platter, and then arrange the chicken thighs over the mound; ladle the pan juices along with the tomatoes, and olives all around. All the juices will funnel their way through the dish making each bite unique.