Chicken thighs are a one-meat-fits-all staple in my kitchen, especially boneless skinless ones. They cook quickly and play friendly with the flavor spectrum of my pantry — fresh and dried herbs, fragrant spices, canned tomatoes and coconut milk, and ingredients that live in the fridge, like mustard and hot sauce.
They’re a lot like chicken breasts that way, but thighs deliver much more chicken-ness and don’t become dry and boring after cooking.
Even though I cook dinner almost every day of the week, I’m not always great at planning out every single meal in advance. Many days I find myself putting things together on the fly, sometimes with a depleted fridge. That’s why I rely on the tried-and-true combo of lemon, olive and red chili, elemental but also essential in some way to just about everything I cook.
This chicken recipe cooks in one pan, on top of the stove for a few minutes then finished under the broiler, creating a savory pan sauce to pour over the meat and a simple side, like wilted greens and some grilled crusty bread. The sliced lemons add lots of tang and juice, but I sometimes add halved cherry tomatoes instead — they collapse and give up their own sweet tomato liquid as they roast under the broiler — perfect to serve as a one-bowl dinner with pasta.
Maras pepper (or Aleppo) is a type of Turkish chili pepper, with a medium-warm heat level and a sweet complexity I find missing in regular dried chili flakes. I keep a jar in my fridge to preserve its beautiful, vibrant red color and moist texture. I love to sprinkle it on…almost everything! It’s usually sold finely crushed or flaked with little or no seeds. If you don’t have it, use a teaspoon of paprika and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper instead.
roasted chicken thighs with chili and lemon
- 1 1/2 lemons
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 heaping teaspoon Maras or Aleppo chili pepper
- 2 small whole dried chilies, such as chile de arbol, crumbled
- 1 or 2 garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane or finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons chopped aromatic fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, marjoram or oregano
- 1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, about 6 pieces
- Grate the zest of the whole lemon into a large bowl, then slice in half and squeeze the juice into the bowl (You should have enough juice to make a 1/4 cup. If not, squeeze in the other half of the second lemon). Cut the 1/2 lemon in half lengthwise, slice into thin half moons and set aside.
- Add the salt, olive oil, chili peppers, garlic and herbs to the bowl and whisk together. Put the chicken in the bowl, turning the pieces around to coat in the marinade.
- Arrange oven rack six inches from heat source and preheat the broiler. Heat a cast-iron (or other heavy oven-proof) skillet large enough to hold the chicken without crowding over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, coat the bottom with some olive oil then add the chicken pieces, reserving the marinade.
- Cook 5 minutes, or until the chicken begins to brown. Take the pan off the heat and turn the chicken pieces over. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken, tuck the lemon slices in and around the pan and place under the broiler. Cook until the chicken is firm and golden and lemon slices begin to brown.
- Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and pour the pan juices over.