By Ann Maloney
Chicken thighs are so forgiving. Overcook them and they remain loyally succulent. Even reheated, they deliver on the promise of juiciness and flavour. That’s why they are great to turn to when you don’t have the patience for worrying over exacting instructions at the stove.
Pair the thighs with a you-can’t-mess-it-up sauce and you’ve got a winning combination for a quick dinner on a harried evening.
This one-pan recipe does just that. The chicken thighs are seasoned and browned on both sides in a skillet. Then they are removed and set aside, so that the chicken drippings can form the tasty base for a honey-citrus sauce made with fresh orange juice and thinly sliced onion and lemons, along with a healthy dose of honey and a pinch of dried oregano.
Even if you’re tired of chicken, you might still like this citrusy sauce on other proteins. I’ve enjoyed it with quick-broiled shrimp and pan-fried pork chops.
The sauce is easy to spike with a little crushed red pepper for heat. Or try adding a minced garlic clove or two. If you don’t like the texture of lemon slices – the pith can be a little bitter – juice a couple of lemons and add that, with a bit of lemon zest for good measure.
Honey-Citrus Chicken Thighs (Serves 4)
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice (about 1 large orange)
3 tbs honey
2 tbs water
1 thin-skinned lemon, halved and thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbs chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
Pat the chicken pieces dry with a clean towel. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Let the chicken rest at room temperature while you prep other ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 93°C.
In a large, non-stick pan or a well-seasoned cast-iron pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Reduce the heat to medium. Working in batches, if necessary, and without overcrowding the pan, add the thighs and sear, without moving, until golden brown on one side, about 10 minutes. Flip each piece and repeat on other side until browned, about 6 more minutes.
If the chicken sticks, use a thin spatula to gently loosen. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 73°C when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Transfer the browned chicken to an ovenproof dish, cover and keep warm in the oven.
In the same pan over medium heat, add the onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the orange juice, honey, water, lemon slices and oregano and bring to a boil.
Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes, scraping loose any browned bits that have stuck to the pan.
When the lemon slices are softened and the sauce is thickened, return the chicken thighs to the pan, turning each piece several times to coat in the sauce.
If desired, place the chicken on a serving platter. Spoon the sauce over each piece.
Sprinkle with the fresh basil, if desired, and serve.