Crispy-skinned chicken with chopped salad

If you don't like crispy skin on a perfectly roasted chicken thigh, you're dead to me.

There are few things in this world that I relish more than roast chicken. But roast chicken is a tiny bit of a misnomer. Sure, you could entirely roast a bird in the oven, but, to develop that flavorful, crunchy skin that snaps when you begin sawing through it with a knife, you need to use the stove top, too. Like I referenced in this turkey meatball recipe, an oven-safe skillet or saute pan is clutch when it comes to cooking just about any vegetable, meat or fish. You can pop it straight into the oven after you're finished searing, and it's still just the one pan you're cleanin.

The roasty richness of this chicken is an elegant pair with (what we call in Texas) "chopped salad." I'm sure they call it that other places – but I'm not talking about something that resembles a cobb salad with confetti-like slivers of iceberg. This is a zippy salad of tomatoes and cucumbers dressed with olive oil and white wine vinegar or lemon juice. I add cumin to bring another dimension of flavor. With that addition of this ancient spice – I mean, it's so old that it was referenced in Isaiah – the chicken and chopped salad suddenly hearken to the southeastern Mediterranean. If you need a bit more substance, I'd suggest the addition of saffron or basmati rice.

Your best bets for accompanying beverages: a Helles-style lager, a Gruner Vetliner, a spicy Argentine Malbec or medium-bodied, plummy Sangiovese.

What to know

It might seem counterintuitive but using a cooking method in which you pop something into the oven after you've cooked on the stove top buys you time. While you're finishing something in the oven, it's the perfect time to chop veggies, for, say, the chopped salad below, or to assemble a salad. This meal is of the 30-minutes-or-less persuasion if you plan for it. Organization in the kitchen is vital.

Here's how I do it:

  1. Preheat oven, then assemble all of the ingredients that you need on your cooking surface.
  2. Season chicken and begin heating oil in saute pan.
  3. Once oil is hot enough, place chicken (skin-side down) in the pan, and begin assembling the vinaigrette portion of the chopped salad while the chicken skin sears.
  4. Once the chicken skin is evenly browned, flip the chicken, and place in the oven. While the chicken finishes in the oven, chop your vegetables and mix with vinaigrette.
  5. Remove chicken from the oven and serve immediately with a side of the chopped salad. If you're adding a side, like rice, you can start that before you begin this process and it'll be done just before or around the same time as the chicken. It's as simple as that.

What you need

Crispy-skinned chicken

3 lbs bone-in chicken thighs with skin (it's okay if drums are attached; the cooking time doesn't change)

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste

1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

 2 tbsp butter

Chopped salad

1 10.5 oz container cherry or grape tomatoes

1 cucumber

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp salt

Black pepper, freshly cracked, to taste

1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles (optional)

How it works

Crispy-skinned chicken

Preheat oven to 400-degrees F. 

In a large oven-safe saute pan, begin heating oil over medium-high heat. While the oil heats, generously season chicken with salt and pepper. Once the oil is hot enough – when a droplet of water immediately sizzles when flicked into the pan – place the chicken skin-side down into the pan.

Allow chicken to brown skin-side down in the pan for 5-7 minutes, or until it has developed an even brown crust. Adjust heat as needed so as not to burn the skin.

Once browned, flip the chicken using tongs. Carefully, with the chicken still in the pan, pour out excess oil.

Add the butter to the pan and place in the oven. Roast chicken for 18-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (155-degrees F on the meat thermometer if we're getting specific). Serve immediately.

Chopped salad

In a salad or mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper.

Slice tomatoes in half and place into bowl.

Cut cucumber into 1/2 inch slices, and cut those slices into quarters. Place cucumbers into bowl.

With a spoon, mix together all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning as needed. Sprinkle feta over the top before serving, if you're adding it.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

This serves about two to three hungry people, and both of these items make delicious leftovers. The chopped salad only continues to marinate and pickle itself in the fridge over time and is delicious for up to 4-5 days. The chicken can be reheated as is, though the glorious skin will never be the same, or used for tacos, over salad or in pasta.