This is my favorite way to cook chicken thighs—and my favorite way to serve them come springtime. Crisp-tender asparagus, smash-fried potatoes, and lots of bacon. While the chicken and bacon bring richness (“thank you!” say the asparagus and potatoes), garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard keep everyone feeling bright and sprightly. —Emma Laperruque
2 to 4
kosher salt, plus more to taste
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
golf ball–sized red potatoes
asparagus, fibrous ends trimmed
thick slices bacon, roughly chopped into ¾-inch pieces
garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes
In This Recipe
Set a very large pot of water (about 6 quarts) over high heat to come to a boil. When it does, generously season it with salt (I estimate 1 tablespoon kosher salt per quart of water).
Add the olive oil to a large, heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) and set over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs all over 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. Adjust the heat as needed, reducing to medium-low if the skin begins to burn before it gets evenly brown.
When the salted water is boiling, add the potatoes and cook until knife-tender, about 10 minutes (start checking around 8 to avoid overcooking). Use a spider or slotted spoon to remove the potatoes to a plate where they can cool.
Let the water return to a boil, then add the asparagus. Boil for about 2 minutes, or until almost tender. Drain.
When the chicken thighs are crispy and deeply golden-brown on the bottom, flip. 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.
When the potatoes are cool, use your palm, a glass, or a measuring cup to gently smush them. You want them as flat as possible, but not falling apart. When the asparagus is cool, chop the stalks into 1 ½-inch pieces.
When the chicken is done, transfer the thighs to a plate, but leave the all the fat in the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high. Immediately add the smashed potatoes to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes per side, or until very crispy all over. Transfer the potatoes to a plate or platter, then discard the fat and wipe the pan.
Set the pan back over medium heat. Add the bacon. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until just starting to crisp. Discard a couple spoonfuls of rendered fat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and stir. Toast until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the asparagus and stir. Cook for about 1 minute, just to warm, then add the Dijon, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Nestle the chicken thighs back in the pan.
Serve immediately with the smash-fried potatoes alongside.
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now, she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter.