One of dozens of things I’ve learned from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, possibly my favorite food book of all time, is the method of pre-seasoning meat (and fish) with salt. Generously, and often well in advance of cooking.
The thought of not only planning next day’s dinner in advance – and actually starting to prepare it too – seems like one more good intention gone astray. BUT, in this case the “preparation” involves taking chicken out of the package, sprinkling it with salt, putting it back into the refrigerator and forgetting about it for 24 hours. Yup. Trust me, it’s totally doable. And that simple step has a big impact on the outcome.
Also, letting the chicken sit in the refrigerator uncovered dries the skin, which is the secret to good, even browning and minimal sticking to the pan. When the wine and vinegar go in and deglaze the pan, all that good brown stuff merges with everything else, layering the flavors. As the chicken cooks, the meat gets tender and the liquid reduces just enough to make a delicious, savory sauce. I like to serve this over farro or whole grain pasta.
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 small bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup water
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- Put the chicken thighs on a small rimmed baking sheet or baking dish. Sprinkle the salt on both sides of chicken; arrange skin side up and refrigerate overnight, uncovered. This will season the chicken and help the skin to crisp and brown.
- Heat a large (12-inch) wide pan with at least 2-inch sides over medium high heat. Add the olive oil to the pan, followed by the chicken, skin side down. Cook undisturbed for 10 minutes, watching that the pan doesn't get too hot and adjusting the heat accordingly, until the skin is a rich golden brown. Turn chicken and cook the other side 2 minutes; remove chicken to a plate.
- Pour off all but about a teaspoon of the fat in the pan, then add the wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic, shallot, bay leaves, thyme and water; return chicken to the pan, skin side up. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes.
- Let the chicken rest off the heat 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed and black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and serve.