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8 & $20: Roasted Chicken Thighs With Broccoli

Dress up this dish with a lemon-herb sauce and pair with a lively white wine to transition from winter to spring
Look for a wine with acidity to match the lemon in the sauce. Sauvignon Blanc is a classic match with herbs and vegetables, but here a white Rioja worked as well.
Photo by: Greg Hudson
Look for a wine with acidity to match the lemon in the sauce. Sauvignon Blanc is a classic match with herbs and vegetables, but here a white Rioja worked as well.

Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Posted: March 10, 2015

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

We’ve hit that point in late winter where I need to see the light at the end of the tunnel to remind myself that spring really will come again. Dinner can be that beacon. In this dish, the contrast of the roasted flavors with the bright lemon and herbs does a great job of bridging the seasons.

However, this dish is versatile enough to be in regular rotation at our house year-round. While fairly easy to prepare, it is elegant enough to make when in need of something for last-minute dinner guests.

Chicken thighs are extremely underrated. They’re inexpensive, flavorful and very forgiving—they will stay tender and juicy through fairly extended cooking. With the easy homemade sauce, they’ll shine beyond their humble stature. As an alternative to the lemon juice in the sauce, feel free to substitute a little of the white wine you’re drinking: It will accomplish a similar end by adding brightness to the dish. Similarly, use whatever herbs you like or have on hand.

When choosing a wine pairing for this dish, consider two main factors. First, the sauce has a considerable amount of acidity. Ideally, the levels in your food and your wine should match; if the wine is less acidic than the food, it will likely taste a little flat. In addition, the green notes in the herbs and the broccoli can be tricky, and tend to work best with wines that have complementary flavor attributes.

We sampled a white blend from Campania, a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile and a white Rioja. The Campania bottling had a very pleasant texture, but unfortunately not enough acidity to stand up to the sauce, and came out of the pairing a bit deflated. Sauvignon Blanc, with its naturally high acidity and inherent green notes, was the favored contender in this matchup, and it performed as expected. The flavors in the wine, the sauce and the broccoli coordinated well.

However, this story has an underdog. The white Rioja was an experimental choice that delivered. This version was barrel fermented and aged on its lees, giving the wine a creamy texture that worked well with the roasted elements in the dish and matched the consistency and weight of the sauce. Meanwhile, it maintained enough minerality and freshness to hold its own against the lemon and herbs. With the extra appeal of its texture and mineral notes, the Rioja slightly edged out the Sauvignon Blanc, though both wines make very good matches.

Roasted Chicken Thighs and Broccoli With Lemon-Herb Sauce

Pair it with an herb-inflected, minerally white such as Bodegas Muga Rioja White Barrel Fermented 2013 (88 points, $16) or Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc Casablanca Valley 2014 (89 points, $13).

Total time: 45 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes

Approximate food cost: $17.50

  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups broccoli florets (approximately 2 large heads, chopped)
  • 1 1/2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped marjoram
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425° F.

2. Mix 1/4 cup olive oil with the juice of half a lemon and season generously with salt and pepper. Drizzle the mixture over the broccoli florets and toss well to combine; add the oil mixture gradually so that the broccoli is lightly coated. Spread the broccoli out in a single layer on a greased roasting pan, then place in the oven. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs to the pan, skin-side down and cook until golden brown, approximately 6 minutes. Flip and cook on the second side until lightly brown, about another 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and toss the broccoli. Transfer the chicken thighs to the roasting pan (reserving the fat for the sauce), return the pan to the oven and roast until the broccoli is browned and the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165° F—about another 10 minutes.

5. While the chicken is in the oven, make the sauce. Drain all but a couple of tablespoons of fat from the pan used to cook the chicken. Return to heat and add 2 tablespoons of flour to the oil and cook until the mixture turns golden and forms a thick paste. Add a small amount of the chicken stock to deglaze the pan, then whisk until the flour-oil mixture is incorporated into the stock. Add in the rest of the stock and the juice of 1 lemon. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

6. Remove the sauce from the heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter until it is melted and incorporated. Stir in the herbs and season with salt and pepper.

7. Serve the roasted chicken thighs with the roasted broccoli and top with the lemon-herb sauce. Serves 4.

Michael Barrasso
Bay Head, NJ, USA —  March 13, 2015 10:09am ET
Have some fresh tarragon left from another meal, so I'll be making this dish with that substitution tonight. But the variations on this are limitless: lemon juice - white wine - vinegar(s) - red wine - port - sherry - Madeira - Marsala - Sauternes - bourbon - whiskeys, broccoli - cauliflower - carrots - turnips - parsnips - potatoes, thighs - whole legs - drumsticks, chicken - turkey - duck - pork, and that's before we even start with the herbs.

Some combos better some than others, and some left to the fate of "what's in the fridge."

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