I’m not going to bury the lead, here. This recipe is one of the easiest to prepare that we’ve ever featured, while also delivering the most impressive results. The effort/reward ratio is completely out of whack on this one. A few basic ingredients, including just salt, pepper, some mushrooms, and one of the cheapest cuts of chicken. No crazy herbs or spices, no waking up at 3AM to get it started in a 200 degree oven, and no special equipment. In fact, the whole thing can be done in one pan, in about 20 minutes. And it’s absolutely foolproof.
When I think of French cooking, I picture incredibly sophisticated technique requiring years to learn. I picture a frustrated chef endlessly fussing over bubbling crocks of butter and wine. It’s a kind of cooking that seems ridiculously out of reach for the home cook, without a serious amount of commitment and lots of study. Picture Julie Powell (as portrayed by Amy Adams, natch) wailing in despair over her imperfect Boeuf Bourguignon.
This recipe, though, makes it clear how mistaken I am in my preconceptions about cooking if not authentic French food, than at least food with a bit of French flair. The technique couldn’t be simpler, and the result? Perfectly cooked chicken with a thick crust of seasoned skin on top which you can pluck off and eat in one bite like a savage, followed by moist, flavorful chicken on a bed of onions, garlic, and mushrooms cooked in chicken fat before being doused in white wine. It’s so simple. Work through the recipe one time, and it will stay with you forever, ready to be pulled from memory at a moment’s notice for either a quick weeknight meal (with that lonely family-sized package of “bone-in skin-ons” you’ve got in the back of the freezer) or even for a special occasion. Either would be appropriate. Learn to do this.
Crusty Chicken Thighs with Mushroom Ragout
Adapted from a recipe by Jacques Pépin; Serves 4
- 4 large chicken thighs (about 1 3/4 pounds total), skin on
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 12 ounces white (cremini) mushrooms (or any combination of your favorites), washed and diced
- 1/3 cup dry white wine
- A few tablespoons chopped chives, to garnish
Preheat oven to 150 degrees, or lowest “warm” setting.
Place chicken thighs skin side-down on a cutting board, and pierce flesh with a knife on each side of the bone, leaving about a half inch long slice. Season well on both sides with salt and pepper, and place skin side-down in a dry, cold cast iron skillet. If your skillet doesn’t have a lid (as ours doesn’t), find a bigger, heavier pan to rest on top.
Increase heat to high. After the chicken sizzles for about a minute, reduce heat to medium and wiggle the thighs to make sure they aren’t sticking to the pan. Cover and cook approximately 20 minutes, checking often to make sure skin isn’t getting too brown. Halfway through the cycle, a flood of chicken fat will hit the pan, which will slow down the browning. If chicken is getting too brown too fast, reduce heat to low.
When the chicken is done (you can check it with a meat thermometer if you want to make sure it’s hit a safe 165 internal temp), transfer the thighs to an sheet pan to keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.
Pour off all but 2-3 tablespoons of chicken fat from the skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and mushrooms (that’s right…all at once), and sauté them over high heat for about 3-4 minutes. or until mushrooms release their liquid and begin to turn golden brown.
Season with salt and pepper, then pour in the wine, making sure to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook for approximately one minute more, until sauce thickens.
To serve, spoon mushroom ragout onto plates. Place a chicken thigh on top, add more sauce, and sprinkle with chives.