Canal House's Chicken Thighs with Lemon

By • May 5, 2015 86 Comments

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Author Notes: "Short of turning chicken on a spit over live wood embers, I know of no better process for cooking chicken, nor one that delivers more satisfying or true flavors,” Paul Bertolli wrote of this technique, which he calls "bottom-up cooking," in Cooking by Hand.

You don’t sear, and you don’t roast, and you don’t grill—you don’t do any of the things we’re taught to do to chicken. Instead, you lay the chicken, skin side down, in a barely hot pan. Then you leave it mostly alone for about 30 minutes, flipping only once. The skin becomes impossibly crisp, enough so to satisfy your darkest fried chicken cravings.

Bertolli’s is a worthy technique to play with, but Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer of Canal House have streamlined it for us. They use only thighs, which lie flat, maximizing the crisping area, and jigsaw easily into a round skillet. Unlike Bertolli, they also allow for a bit of olive oil to get the process rolling.

The simplest version of the sauce has only minced-up preserved lemon stirred into the pan juices at the end, but you can play with this technique as you like. Hirsheimer and Hamilton suggest two more seasoning variations—sherry and mushrooms, or bacon and olives. You can deglaze and make a gravy or a fancy pan sauce. Or just eat all the chicken as fast as you can.
Reprinted with permission from Food52 Genius Recipes by Kristen Miglore, copyright © 2015. Recipe courtesy of Canal House. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
Photography credit: James Ransom © 2015
Genius Recipes


Serves 4

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • rind from half of a preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  1. Put the olive oil into a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add them to the skillet, skin side down. Cook them like this, without moving them, until the fat has rendered out and the skin is deep golden brown and crisp, 15 to 30 minutes. Fiddle with the heat, reducing it to medium-low if the skin begins to burn before it gets evenly golden brown. Turn the thighs over and stir the preserved lemon rind into the fat in the skillet. Continue cooking the thighs until the meat closest to the bone is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Serve the thighs and lemony pan drippings with the lemon wedges.

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Topics: Weeknight Cooking