Cast Iron

Crispy Chicken Thighs With Kale & Croutons

June 11, 2018
28 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 3
Author Notes

My take on Canal House’s Genius chicken thighs. Torn bread pieces crisp up in schmaltz, followed by a boatload of shiny Tuscan kale. My favorite way to break down the bread: Cut into thick slices, then tear by hand. —Emma Laperruque

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: Legendary, Crispy-as-Heck Chicken Thighs We'd Want for Dinner Any Night —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 pinches freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 cups chopped Tuscan kale (about 10 ounces)
  • 3 cups torn bread chunks (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of
  1. Add the olive oil to a large, heavy skillet, preferably cast-iron. Set over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Add them to the skillet, skin side down. Cook like this, without moving, until the fat has rendered and the skin is deeply golden brown and crispy, 15 to 30 minutes. Fiddle with the heat, reducing to medium-low if the skin begins to burn before it gets evenly golden brown.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water—figure about 4 quarts—to a boil. Add roughly 2 to 4 tablespoons of salt, depending on your seasoning preference. Add the kale and cook for about 2 minutes until tender. Drain into a colander. Don’t worry about squeezing out any extra water—we’ll want that moisture later.
  3. Turn the thighs over and continue cooking until the other side is deeply golden brown and the meat closest to the bone is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes more.
  4. When done, transfer the chicken thighs to a plate, leaving all the fat in the pan. Immediately add the bread to the pan. Toss in the fat and spread into an even layer. Now leave alone until golden-brown and toasty. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and toss. Let toast for a minute, then add the kale and toss. Cook for 5 or so minutes, until everyone is hot and happy. Squeeze lemon juice on top. Season with salt to taste.
  5. Nestle the chicken thighs back in the pan. Serve immediately.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Karen Brooks
    Karen Brooks
  • Daphnée Anctil
    Daphnée Anctil
  • Tanya C Anderson
    Tanya C Anderson
  • Susanna
  • Erica Lynn Guzman
    Erica Lynn Guzman
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

46 Reviews

Monica April 6, 2023
I loved putting this on the stove and getting ten things done while the heat did the cook work. Trusting the recipe, the skin on the thighs turned a crisp golden brown. Wonderful.
Karen B. August 23, 2022
This is a great weeknight recipe. As we don't care for kale, I make this with fresh spinach or fresh swiss chard. Both of these greens don't need blanching (as does the kale) so you can skip step #2. I have also started cooking chicken thighs by starting them in cold pan, skin side down, turning the heat medium and cooking without moving until golden brown and then flipping. The cold start keeps the skin from shrinking as it crisps.
Sarah February 28, 2021
This receipt is a serious keeper. I doubled—or was it tripled?—the garlic because there is no such thing as too much garlic. Similarly for the red pepper flakes for the same reason. I started off with very little olive oil because I knew the chicken thighs would render quite a bit of fat and splatter like mad. I had no problem therefore adding olive oil once I put the torn bread into the pan. I also used lots, a full 11 ounces, of kale (see above re garlic). I am looking forward to the left overs. Really excellent. Thank you.
JDestefano November 13, 2020
I rarely leave reviews but I am grateful for this recipe! Easy enough to make on a Friday night, and delicious enough to crave constantly. The only change I make is to add anchovies. Sullivan Street's sesamo loaf makes the best croutons! Kale, bread, anchovies and crispy chicken skin - what more could you ask for?
Daphnée A. May 5, 2020
Winner winner chicken dinner. So good, so easy. I only had frozen multigrain sliced bread so I pre-toasted it just a tad and it totally worked. Amazing recipe, thank you!
John H. April 16, 2020
I loved the video of EL making this, but I can't find it now. Has it been taken down? It was very helpful!
Emma L. April 17, 2020
Thank you! Here's a link to the video on Instagram:
Peppermint April 6, 2020
I was immediately on board after watching the preparation video on Instagram. What an easy recipe for such a tasty dish. My boyfriend and I loved it! It will now be a part of my "Cooking in the Time COVID-19" recipe book. Brioche was subbed for the sourdough, because that's what I had in the house, and it held up well. Will definitely make this again using some of the substitutions recommended in the comments. Thank you for helping me prepare dinner in this stressful time! XOXO
Emma L. April 7, 2020
Thanks so much! Brioche sounds great.
Tanya C. February 28, 2020
Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. I made it for my family this evening and it was amazing! We loved the combination of flavors. This will become a part of our usual repetoire in the future.
Emma L. February 29, 2020
Thanks so much, Tanya—so happy to hear you and your family enjoyed it!
Carolyn February 26, 2020
I had spinach in the fridge, not kale, so I added it just at the last minute.
John February 5, 2019
Excellent flavor and texture. Devoured promptly:
Emma L. February 6, 2019
Thanks, John—looks great!
Susanna December 10, 2018
I really am struggling with kale fatigue these days. Wonder how it would be with escarole instead.
Emma L. December 10, 2018
Hi Susanna! I'm sure it would be great with escarole. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes!
Anne T. December 10, 2018
Have tried with chard, both stems diced and leaves torn, delicious.
essbee December 13, 2018
Did you blanch the chard before adding it to the skillet?
Anne T. December 13, 2018
No, Essbee. Thanks for asking. The diced stems and torn leaves cooked beautifully without blanching.
essbee December 13, 2018
Thank you for your prompt response.
Erica L. November 11, 2018
I have made this dish six times since the first time I tried it in September. My family LOVES it!! I did take the advice of others, and add a couple of minced anchovies right before the bread. This is such an easy and delicious dinner, with ingredients that many people who cook have on hand most of the time. Try it, you won’t be disappointed!
Emma L. November 13, 2018
Thanks so much, Erica! So glad that you and your family love it!
riverrat September 7, 2018
I made this and thought it was a winner. I brought it to work and everyone else loved it too. Reading through some of the other comments, I may try potatoes instead of the bread chunks next time.
Jason P. July 22, 2018
This recipe is amazing. Adding a can of anchovies made it even better.
Emma L. July 26, 2018
Yes! Adding a can of anchovies makes most things better :)
Erica L. September 6, 2018
When would you add the anchovies? After the chicken and before the bread? I’m sure it’s going to be “too late” for me to get an answer, since I’m making this tonight, but maybe for next time I’ll know. I have been cooking since I was a child, but I just recently started using anchovies so I’m still a bit hesitant.
Emma L. September 6, 2018
Hi Erica! Not too late :) You could add some minced anchovies right before the bread or along with the garlic and pepper flakes. I'd personally do the former, that way the bread can absorb all that amazing anchovy flavor. Hope you enjoy the recipe!
Erica L. September 6, 2018
Awesome! Thank you so much for answering my question! I have a small tin of anchovies I’ll use tonight! I can’t wait!!
epicharis July 14, 2018
This was outstanding, and involved very little work despite taking an hour. This goes into the weeknight rotation for sure. Thank for sharing!
Emma L. July 15, 2018
Thanks, epicharis—so happy to hear that!
andrea July 5, 2018
This was delicious! In lieu of breadcrumbs I cubed some boiled yukon gold potatoes, tossed them in the chicken fat, and cooked to golden before cooking the kale.
Emma L. July 5, 2018
Oh my gosh, yes please!
theo23rd June 30, 2018
I love the idea of frying croutons in the chicken fat!
Kella June 29, 2018
Can I use Himalayan sea salt? That's all I use now.
Emma L. July 1, 2018
Hi Kella, you can definitely use it, but I'm not sure of the exact measurement conversion. I'd just season the water to taste and sprinkle the chicken generously.
Sissy June 29, 2018
Made just the thigh part of this recipe tonight. After I finished cooking the thighs, I sliced some soft Italian bread and fried it in the fat in the pan. Both were sooooo good. Had with some cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices that I needed to use up. Will make this again.
Emma L. June 29, 2018
Yum! I had a cherry tomato and cucumber salad last night for the same reason :)
Faith P. June 28, 2018
Can breast or legs be used instead of thighs?
Emma L. June 29, 2018
Hi Faith—I haven't tried that myself, but I don't see why not. Just make sure to still use bone-in, skin-on, and adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Faith P. June 29, 2018
Thank you, I'll try it and let you know
theo23rd June 30, 2018
Neither will work as well as thighs in giving you that great contrast between crisp and juicy-tender. Jacques Pepin has a great episode on Youtube. Just search for Pepin chicken thighs.