Chicken with Caramelized Onions & Croutons

Sick Days. We all have them now and then; however, I must admit that, fortunately, mine are far and few between. But last week I had one of those days, when waking up without a voice was followed by a day of coughing and sneezing. Yuck!

Nevertheless, dinner had to get on the table and it’s my job to get it there. Sure, I could have accepted my better half’s offer to get take out or order in, but I find that my own cooking, no matter how simple, does a better job of putting me on the road to recovery.

Simple sick day fare typically includes dishes like pasta with butter and cheese, stracciatella (Italian egg-drop soup), or even a potato frittata. All easy to prepare, with little cleanup afterward. To this list, I’ve recently added roasted chicken thighs prepared from one of Sam Sifton’s “You Don’t Need a Recipe” columns on the New York Times Cooking website.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve prepared three versions of this dish and thought that I would share them with you today. All three are centered on bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs that have been well trimmed of excess fat and skin in order to reduce the amount of residual fat. What I especially like about thighs is that they’re virtually impossible to overcook and are more flavorful than white meat.

Sifton’s no-recipe recipes offer a great way to start improvising in the kitchen. You may not like all of his ideas, but you’ll probably find at least one or two that will inspire you, as they did me, to experiment.

Chicken with Caramelized Onions and Croutons (adapted from Sam Sifton’s “You Don’t Need a Recipe”)

1.) Scatter a bunch of sliced onions and shallots across the oiled bottom of a large pan, then put a bunch of chicken thighs on top, skin-side up. (I use about a tablespoon of oil to grease the pan and trim the thighs of excess fat and skin. Don’t slice the onions and shallots too thin, otherwise they’ll burn.)

2) Season the thighs with salt and pepper, then slide the pan into a 425-degree oven to roast until the chicken is crisp on top and cooked through, about 35 minutes. (Along with the salt and pepper, I use some ground cumin. I also preheat the oven and cook at 450°F for about 50 minutes.)

Out of the Oven

3) Shake the pan every so often, and add wine or stock if the onions are browning too fast. (I’ve found that I haven’t had to shake the pan or add any liquid.)

4) Meanwhile, make some croutons from good, chewy olive-oil-tossed bread, toasting them until golden in a pan or in the oven alongside the chicken. They can be cut or torn up — no matter. Put the croutons on a warm platter, dump the contents of the roasting pan over the top and arrange the chicken on top of that, mixed with bitter greens. (I use croutons from a local bakery that are perfectly seasoned and toasted, which makes this dish even easier. For the bitter greens, I opted for arugula. I also drizzled some rich balsamic over the dish.)

Croutons on a warm platter
Chicken with croutons
Mixed with bitter greens

Some other variations:

One night, I added broccoli florets lightly drizzled with olive oil and some fresh thyme.

The broccoli variation ready for the oven

On another evening, I used Vidalia onion and Brussels sprouts. This has become our favorite of the three.

Brussels sprouts variation
Last Variation Plated

Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, Alsatian Riesling, Pinot Noir


6 thoughts on “Roasted Chicken Thighs with Caramelized Onions & Croutons

  1. I love to jump into the kitchen and think about what can I create today. Now, mind you, I don’t do it all the time, but I do enjoy it. So, thanks for introducing me to Sam Sifton’s “You Don’t Need a Recipe”. I just Googled it and the NYT series is available over here, so I’m going give it a try.

  2. I finally got around to trying this, Roland. It’s a great, easy preparation. For two thighs I used a big spring onion and a small new zucchino. Took your suggestion of cumin seeds but used toasted ones. My oven did fine at 425 for 45 minutes; no shaking the pan, no other additions. I thank you for a non-recipe that just may change this chicken lover’s everyday life!

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