Chicken thighs are so forgiving. Overcook them and they remain loyally succulent. Even reheated, they deliver on the promise of juiciness and flavor.
That’s why they are great to turn to when you don’t have the patience for worrying over exacting instructions. Pair the thighs with a you-can’t-mess-it-up sauce and you’ve got a winning combination for a quick dinner on a harried evening.
The chicken thighs are seasoned and browned on both sides in a skillet. Then they are removed and set aside, so that the chicken drippings can form the tasty base for a honey-citrus sauce made with fresh orange juice and thinly sliced onion and lemons, along with a healthy dose of honey and a pinch of dried oregano.
Once the sauce has simmered a bit, thickening enough to coat the chicken pieces, the thighs are returned to the pan and turned a few times. Add a crispy salad or a side of al dente vegetables, such as green beans or asparagus, and, voila, you’ve got dinner.
Chicken thighs — once considered second-class to the breast — have become very popular. Perhaps that is because they are so versatile, tasting great whether stewed, sauteed, grilled or fried.
Some think the thighs are too fatty, but it is that extra bit of fat that gives the pieces more flavor and moisture. Each part of the chicken is a good source of lean protein if it is cooked without the skin. The skinless boneless breast, for example, has about 165 calories and 1 gram of saturated fat per 3½ ounces of meat, while the thigh has 209 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat, according to the National Chicken Council.
Like the breast, you can buy thighs bone-in or boneless, skin-on or skinless. If you’ve got white-meat-only eaters, the boneless, skinless thigh is a good way to introduce the darker meat. The flesh is lighter than the drumstick, and, if cooked in a flavorful sauce such as this one, it just might pass muster.
I prefer the thigh because, along with more flavor, it is usually less expensive than the breast. And I like the size of the pieces. The chicken breasts are so big these days that I often cut them in half when cooking or serving.
Even if you’re tired of chicken, you might still like this citrusy sauce on other proteins. I’ve enjoyed it with quick-broiled shrimp and pan-fried pork chops.
The sauce is easy to spike with a little crushed red pepper for heat. Or try adding a minced garlic clove or two. If you don’t like the texture of lemon slices — the pith can be a little bitter — juice a couple of lemons and add that, with a bit of lemon zest for good measure.
Honey-Citrus Chicken Thighs
Total: 40 minutes
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/3 pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup thinly sliced red onion (about ½ a large onion)
¼ cup fresh orange juice (about 1 large orange)
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
1 thin-skinned lemon, halved and thinly sliced in half-rounds
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (optional)
Pat the chicken pieces dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Let the chicken rest at room temperature while you prep other ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 200 F.
In a large, nonstick skillet or a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Reduce the heat to medium. Working in batches, and without overcrowding the pan, add the thighs and sear, without moving, until golden brown on one side, about 10 minutes. Flip each piece and repeat on other side until browned, about 6 more minutes.
If the chicken sticks, use a thin spatula to gently loosen. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh. Transfer the browned chicken to an ovenproof dish, cover and keep warm in the oven.
In the same pan over medium heat, add the onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the orange juice, honey, water, lemon slices and oregano and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes, scraping loose any browned bits that stuck to the pan.
When the lemon slices are softened and the sauce is thickened, return the chicken thighs to the pan, turning each piece several times to coat in the sauce.
Place the chicken on a platter. Spoon the sauce over each piece. Sprinkle with the fresh basil, if desired, and serve.
Storage notes: Store the cooled chicken thighs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Nutrition: Calories: 340; Total Fat: 16 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Trans Fat: 0 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 10 g; Cholesterol: 130 mg; Sodium: 280 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugars: 15 g; Protein: 31 g