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8 & $20: Chicken Thighs with Pan Sauce, Lemon and Kale

This healthy one-pot meal will carry you through the cold weather
A medium-bodied white strikes the right balance with the flavors of citrus and greens that punctuate this savory dish.
Photo by: Julie Harans
A medium-bodied white strikes the right balance with the flavors of citrus and greens that punctuate this savory dish.

Julie Harans
Posted: January 22, 2019

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.

Searing meat or poultry adds appealing color and flavors, but it also creates something else: those oils and crispy bits at the bottom of the pan. Too often neglected, the juices and particles left behind after a sear are an excellent way to lend depth to a dish, thanks to the French technique of deglazing, or adding liquid to a hot pan with browned bits in it, releasing them and infusing the dish with their concentrated flavor.

This recipe builds rich flavors in less than an hour. You’ll sear the chicken with the skin on to release those key components, deglaze the pan with the help of some of the wine you're drinking, and then remove the skin to avoid sogginess once the chicken is largely covered in the liquid, which is later reduced into a savory pan sauce. Kale, a green that’s sturdy enough to stand up to prolonged heat, helps take this from a simple chicken preparation to a nutritious one-pot dinner. You can also serve this with plain white rice or noodles to soak up the sauce.

For the wine pairing, I looked for something with a medium body that would bring a little richness to the combo, but with enough freshness to play off the citrus in the dish. First I tried a Viognier from southern France, but my choice had a prominent floral character that I found distracting, as it didn't meld with the various components on the plate. Instead, I went for a Portuguese pick—Casa Santos Lima Lisboa White Colossal 2017—that showed bright fruit flavors but finished on a savory, creamy note, complementing both the acidic lemon and the umami of the chicken.

Since this hearty, healthy dish is simple enough to whip up on a weeknight, you can turn to it to keep you cozy—and fill your kitchen with intoxicating savory scents—all winter long.

Chicken Thighs with Pan Sauce, Lemon and Kale

Pair with a medium-bodied white such as Casa Santos Lima Lisboa White Colossal 2017 (88 points, $15).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Approximate food costs: $20

  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 2/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 32 ounces (4 cups) chicken broth, or enough to cover all ingredients 3/4 of the way in a Dutch oven
  • 8 ounces kale, chopped
  • 1 lemon, sliced and seeded

1. Season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven (or other heavy sauté pan or stockpot) over medium-low heat. Add garlic, shallots, red pepper flakes and thyme. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the garlic and shallots have softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Working in batches as needed to prevent overcrowding in the pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil, increase heat to medium-high and add chicken, skin-side down. Let chicken sear for 5 to 7 minutes until the skin is golden-brown. Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool slightly. (It will not be cooked through at this point.) For each batch, heat another tablespoon of olive oil before adding more chicken and repeating the remaining steps.

3. While the chicken is cooling, deglaze the pan by adding the wine to the Dutch oven and using a spatula or wooden spoon to scrape any stuck bits off the bottom. Add the chicken broth, eyeballing an amount that will cover the ingredients about three-quarters of the way once the chicken, kale and lemons are added. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Remove skin from cooled chicken and discard. Add the skinless chicken, kale and lemon slices to the pot. (If the chicken is completely submerged, use a ladle to remove broth as needed.) Cover and let simmer for 15 to 18 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of a chicken thigh, away from the bone, registers 165° F.

4. Remove chicken and set aside. Discard lemon slices and let the liquid simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by about one-third.

5. Serve the chicken with the kale, and spoon the pan sauce on top. Serves 4.

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