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Bone-in chicken thighs can be delightful crispy; however, if you’re not making use of the rendered chicken fat, you’re missing out on a lot of flavor. In her recent F&W Cooks video, Ann Taylor Pittman remedies this with her recipe for Crispy Chicken Thighs Over Melted Zucchini. After cooking the thighs in a skillet, Pittman saves the rendered fat to cook vegetables, resulting in buttery onions and just-slightly-crisp zucchini that make the perfect accompaniment to the chicken. (Plus, no flavor from the fat is wasted.) The simple dish pairs beautifully with quinoa or mashed potatoes—it also comes together in under an hour, so you can easily whip it up for a family meal. Check out some of Pittman’s key tips for preparing the dish below.
Pittman opts to cut her zucchini into ribbons—they have movement and fluidity, and absorb the chicken flavor better because they have so much surface area, she says. She also loves how they look, and notes that our perception of how food looks enhances our perception of how it tastes.
To draw out all of the water in the zucchini—and avoid them water-logging the skillet—Pittman salts the ribbons and lets them stand for about 20-30 minutes.
After seasoning the chicken thighs with salt and pepper, Pittman cooks them on the stove at medium heat. Not high heat, or medium-high, as you want to slowly render the fat out of the chicken. You should also start with the thighs skin-side down. They’ll cook for 10 minutes on the first side, until the skin is nice and golden brown. Then, you flip the chicken and cook for another six minutes. The thighs won’t be fully cooked, but you’ll finish them in the oven.
Once you’re ready to take out the chicken, leave all of the drippings in the pan. Then, add the onions, garlic, and thyme, scraping up the “yummy brown bits,” as Pittman says. Stir occasionally once everything is combined.
Even after the zucchini has been sitting out, Pittman recommends draining them and squeezing them on paper towels before adding them to the onion mixture. You want to get as much moisture as possible out before you put everything in the oven.
When Pittman puts the chicken into the zucchini and onion mixture, she keeps the crispy pieces of skin on top, as opposed to tucking the flaps into the mixture. (If you do, they’ll get soggy.)
After you’ve nestled the chicken into the zucchini and onion mixture, it’s time to put it in the oven (preheated to 450 degrees Fahrenheit). Pittman says you want the chicken to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit—to measure this, she adds a probe thermometer into the middle of one of the thighs, being careful to avoid the bone.
One the chicken is cooked and comes out nice and crispy, Pittman serves it over quinoa. However, she says you can also serve it with mashed potatoes or rice.
For the finishing touch, Pittman likes to serve the dish with a glass of rosé. She loves drinking it in the warmer months, and also says the wine’s flavor won’t overpower the subtlety of the sweet onions or zucchini.
Get the recipe here.