This speedy one-skillet chicken dinner takes full advantage of the simple, sublime combo of soy and butter. Sweet, salty, and packed with umami, the duo has the ability to transform ordinary ingredients into weeknight dinner magic. Here, that’s a package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and a head of green cabbage.
It’s a recipe in two parts: First, dunk bite-sized pieces of the chicken in soy sauce, toss them in cornstarch, and fry in butter. They’ll get beautifully browned and crispy thanks to the cornstarch. (My kids call them “crispy soy nuggets” and be warned, it’s hard not to eat them straight from the pan.) Second, with the chicken resting to the side, cook down a big mess of chopped cabbage in the same skillet (along with some slivered scallions), then hit them with more butter and soy to create a rich, velvety sauce. Pile the chicken and cabbage on a plate, and shower them with furikake (toasted sesame seeds are a fine substitute).
There are countless directions you can take this dish, depending on the season and what you have on hand. Swap the boneless chicken thighs for chicken breast or pork tenderloin, or for a meatless version, use tofu. Try different vegetables in lieu of the cabbage. In the fall and winter months, Brussels sprouts or kale. In the spring, sugar snap peas or asparagus (a la Eric Kim’s very good Paper-Thin Asparagus with Butter & Soy Sauce on this site). In the summer, green beans or sweet corn. No matter which way you go, it’s a speedy, always-satisfying path to dinner that will never let you down.
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4
1 1/4 pounds
boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks
soy sauce (regular or low-sodium), divided
Freshly ground black pepper
cornstarch, plus more as needed
medium cabbage, trimmed, cored, and chopped into 3/4-inch chunks, about 5 to 6 cups in total
small bunch scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced plus dark green parts thinly sliced, separated
Furikake or toasted sesame seeds, for serving (optional)
- In a small bowl, toss chicken in 2 tablespoons soy sauce and several grinds of black pepper.
- Add the cornstarch to a shallow pan (I like using a quarter sheet pan for this task). Working a few pieces at a time, toss the chicken in the cornstarch to evenly coat all sides.
- In a 12-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add chicken in a single, even layer. Cook without moving until golden brown and crispy on the first side (about 3 to 4 minutes), then flip and cook another 3 minutes or so on the second side, or until 165°F in the thickest parts. (Note: If you have a smaller skillet, cook the chicken in batches. A splatter screen or fry guard works well to prevent oil splatter.) Remove skillet from heat, and transfer chicken to a plate in a single layer so it stays crispy, leaving all of the fat in the skillet.
- Return the skillet to medium heat, and melt 1 tablespoon of butter, scraping up any bits of fond from the chicken. Add the cabbage and cook until nicely caramelized around the edges and crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add scallions (the white and light green pieces only) to the cabbage, and sauté another minute, stirring several times.
- When the cabbage has reached your desired tenderness, stir in 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 3 tablespoons water; cook another 30 seconds or so. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter, stirring to evenly coat the cabbage in the soy-butter sauce, then add the dark green scallion tops. Add the chicken back to the pan, if desired, to gently rewarm it. Serve warm with furikake (if using) sprinkled over the top.