Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Honey Skillet Chicken Thighs with Meyer Lemon, Garlic, and Anchovies

I am, I admit, a creature of habit. And so after a long day of work and chasing after a puppy recovering from hip surgery I just usually default to my reliable dinners. That includes roasting chicken thighs brushed with garlic salt, paprika, olive oil and lemon juice. By roasting them at 400 degrees for over an hour I really tasty crispy skin. It just works for me.

But the repetition can get to be a bit much so I thought about how I could augment what are clearly favorite flavors for me and change things up. Over the years I've seen skillet chicken prepared in all sorts of ways and decided to go with that, and in the process create a finger-licking sauce that made me shiver with happiness.

I like to caramelize chicken skin with honey on occasion so honey seemed like a good ingredient to start with, along with garlic--such a great pairing. But I wanted something to offset the honey's sweetness. Anchovies! I had ordered a large tin of salted Sicilian anchovies and thought they'd be perfect to mince with the garlic. I grow Meyer lemons so clearly they, too, would factor in.

Finally, butter. Yeah, butter, browned and foamy and nutty. That would pull it all together.

Making this dish isn't just a matter of throwing the ingredients together and shoving the pan in the oven to bake for awhile. Nope, you have to hover over the stove to build the flavors. So, I pulled out my reliable cast iron skillet and added a tablespoon of unsalted butter. While the butter melted over the heat, I seasoned the chicken thighs. I like thighs as much as I dislike chicken breasts, which I find dry and easy to make unpalatable. Thighs are forgiving. Thighs have flavor.

So, with a little salt and pepper, the thighs went into the skillet to sear, skin side down first, then turned. Then removed, along with most of the pan juices, which I discarded (the juices, not the chicken, of course). I added just a bit more butter to the skillet, scraping up the bits, and gradually the stirred butter foamed and browned. To that I added the honey, stirring it to get it to dissolve, then came the garlic and anchovies. Now don't make a face. The anchovies are fairly indiscernible in the dish, but create this lovely underlying salty umami.

Once the aroma becomes this side of mouth watering, add the lemon juice. Now you've got sweet, salty, and tart in a molten sauce. That's when you add the chicken back to the pan and continue cooking, spooning some of that sauce over the chicken to baste. You'll cover the pan to finish it up before running the skillet under the broiler for a couple of minutes to crisp the skin.

And that's it. For the effort, you get tender, juicy chicken bathed in one of the best sauces you'll ever love. Serve it over rice. Serve it over greens. I chose arugula for the spiciness. Then spoon the sauce over it all and swoon a bit.

Honey Skillet Chicken Thighs with Meyer Lemon, Garlic, and Anchovies
(printable recipe)


3 chicken thighs
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons honey
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 anchovies, minced
Juice from 1 lemon


Preheat your oven to broil.

Melt one tablespoon of butter in a 10-inch oven-proof pan or cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. While the butter melts, season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Sear chicken thighs, skin side down first, until the skin is crispy. Turn and sear again until golden. Drain all but about 2 tablespoons of the pan juices. Transfer chicken to a warm plate.

Melt the rest of the butter in the same pan or skillet the chicken was seared in over medium heat, scraping any bits left over in the pan from the chicken with a spatula. Stir the butter and swirl the pan occasionally for about 3 minutes as the butter changes color to golden brown and has a nutty fragrance.

Add the honey and stir it into the butter to dissolve. Then add in the garlic and anchovies. Sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the lemon juice. Stir well to create a well-blended sauce.

Return the chicken thighs skin side up to the pan with the sauce. Cook for 5 minutes uncovered in the sauce, occasionally basting the skin with the pan juices. Reduce heat to simmer, cover the skillet with a lid, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Use a thermometer to measure the doneness. It will be fully cooked at 165 degrees F.

Remove the lid and transfer the skillet to your oven to broil for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the tops of the chicken are nicely charred. Then remove from oven.

Serve over rice or a plate of arugula. Drizzle sauce over the chicken and rice/arugula.

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