I am a firm believer that chicken thighs are infinitely better than chicken breasts. More juice, more flavor, more better. If anyone has proof of this, it’s Alison Roman, who is a self-proclaimed lover of all things cooked in chicken fat. Can you blame her?
This dish is loosely inspired by her many one-pan chicken dinners. Essentially, you’ll cook the chicken thighs and they’ll leave behind all of this wonderful fat in which you’ll cook the remaining ingredients. So much flavor, so few dishes. Bonus? So much color with this particular combination of romanesco, red onion, lemon and castelvetrano olives. If you’re unfamiliar with romanesco, it’s as though broccoli and cauliflower got together and had a shockingly attractive child. Castelvetrano olives are mild, buttery, green olives. You can find them at Whole Foods and should already be on your way if you haven’t had them before.
A quick word on the lemon— this recipe calls for whole slices of lemon (another Alison trick), which obviously include the bitter, white pith. This brings BIG lemon flavor, but also… bitterness. If that’s not for you, feel free to just use the juice of a lemon. Maybe sprinkle some zest over the top of the finished dish. That said, consider this recipe a formula for chicken and vegetables of your choosing. Potatoes, cauliflower or zucchini would all be delicious in place of the romanesco. You could add tomatoes, mushrooms, beans, different herbs… The skillet is your oyster. Though, maybe don’t add oysters…
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
- freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- olive oil
- 1 head romanesco, broken into florets
- ¼ cup castelvetrano olives, sliced
- 3 springs fresh oregano
- ½ cup chicken stock
In a large bowl, combine the lemon and onion. Season with salt and pepper, stir and set aside. The lemon will pickle and soften the onion, and release some juice to flavor the dish.
In a cast iron pan, preheat olive oil (about three turns of the pan) over medium-high heat. Pat the skin of the chicken dry with paper towel and generously season with salt and pepper. When the oil is hot and shimmering, use tongs to place the chicken into the pan, skin side down. You should hear a loud sizzle. If you don’t, let the oil get hotter. Go one at a time, and use the tongs to hold each piece down for a few seconds to ensure the skin makes good contact with the heat– this will give you a more even sear. Let cook undisturbed until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes, reducing the heat to medium at the halfway point. Season the other side of the chicken with salt and pepper. When it’s ready to flip, it will release easily. No need to tug! Cook the second side until the thighs are no longer pink in the center, about five more minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the romanesco to the remaining chicken fat. Season it with salt and cook about five minutes. Add the onion and lemon mixture and cook another five minutes or so, until the onion starts to soften. Add the olives, and about half of the chicken stock. (You probably won’t need the other half– it’s just in case!) Tear the leaves of two sprigs of oregano, and stir everything together. Then, place the chicken on top, skin side up. At this point, if the skin is not browned to your liking, you can finish the dish under the broiler. Otherwise, reduce the stovetop heat to low, and simmer for a few more minutes until the romanesco is fork-tender. (Here’s where that extra stock might come in handy.) Top with the last of the oregano, and serve right in the skillet to keep everything warm at the table!