At the end of yet another stressful pandemic week, I was once again seeking comfort food. Something homey, simple, and familiar. My search led me to the top shelf of my bookcase and Ina Garten’s Modern Comfort Food, where I found a recipe for skillet-roasted chicken and potatoes.
While having an abundance of chicken thighs in the freezer as well as a five-pound bag of starting-to-sprout potatoes may have also contributed to my choosing the recipe, its use of buttermilk for a marinade sealed the deal. I don’t think I’ve ever used buttermilk before, but have often seen it recommended in recipes for fried chicken, where it tenderizes the meat while making it juicier.
Well, the old dog has a learned a new trick; marinating the chicken in buttermilk for six hours made the roasted thighs perfectly tender and wonderfully moist. Garten’s choice of flavorings for roasting the dish after discarding the marinade—Dijon mustard, fresh thyme, and Hungarian paprika—contributed even more flavor. In addition, roasting the potatoes in two stages, the first with the chicken and the second on their own with plenty of minced garlic, made them tantalizingly good. Finally, finishing the dish just before serving with minced parsley and chives made this one of the most flavorful roast chicken thighs I’ve ever prepared.
In short, this filling dish provided all the comfort my husband and I were craving and will definitely find its way back to our table before too long.
I followed the recipe very closely, except for adding 10 minutes to the second roasting of the potatoes to give them a little more color. I also used a little more mustard and paprika than called for. My only disappointment with the dish was my failure to recreate the perfectly overlapping fanned potato slices in the book’s photograph. Ah…for a food stylist.
Skillet-Roasted Chicken and Potatoes (adapted from Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten; an online version can be found here.)
4 large bone-in, skin-on bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed of excess skin and fat
Freshly ground black pepper
2½ cups buttermilk, shaken
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 generous tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
1½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 pound medium Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1. At least 4 hours (but not more than 12 hours) before you plan to serve, pat the chicken dry with paper towels, sprinkle the thighs all over with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.
2. Place in a 1-gallon sealable plastic bag and pour in the buttermilk. Seal the bag and massage it lightly to be sure the chicken is coated with the buttermilk. Place in the refrigerator to marinate.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil in an unheated 12-inch cast-iron skillet and tilt the pan so the oil covers the bottom.
4. Lift the thighs out of the buttermilk, letting any excess buttermilk drip off, and place them in the skillet, skin side up, in one layer. Discard the marinade.
5. In a small bowl, combine the mustard and wine and brush it on the top of the chicken.
6. Sprinkle with the thyme, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
7. Place the skillet in the oven and roast the chicken for 30 minutes.
8. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate and put the potatoes, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper into the skillet.
9. Toss to coat with the pan juices then spread the potatoes out.
10. Return the chicken to the skillet, placing it on the potatoes. Roast 30 minutes longer, until the chicken registers 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
11. Transfer just the chicken to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Return the skillet to the oven, raise the temperature to 425 degrees, and roast the potatoes for 15 minutes, or until they’re tender and starting to brown. (My potatoes needed an additional 10 minutes.)
12. Return the chicken to the pan and sprinkle with the parsley, chives, and extra salt. Serve hot from the skillet on warmed plates.
Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio