There is only one meal in my life that I know I will never forget. It was the chicken at Zuni in San Francisco. A whole chicken majestically wood fired for a solid hour while I drank too many margaritas at lunch. It was perfect and crisp and buttery, topped with greens and sitting on a bread salad. It was not the margaritas, friend, that blurred my vision. It was the chicken.
Since I live a million miles away, I’ve accepted that the chicken may only be eaten every couple years when I go. But I can use that same concept for a dinner at home with some pretty great results. If I may say so myself, this is probably my favorite recipe on this blog. I’m patting myself on the back for this one. My version is made with crispy chicken thighs instead of a whole chicken, because that’s the best part of the chicken, okay? You will not regret making this, and it will be your new favorite at home dinner. Trust me.
Let’s get started on this recipe! Preheat your oven to 400 F. Then drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil. Then cut your bread into one inch cubes. Puree half the cubes in the food processor until no large chunks remain. Reserve the crumbs and remaining cubes.
First, we’re going to crisp up those thighs in nothing but butter. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel–this ensures proper browning. Then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat to melt. Once melted, add the chicken, skin side down. If they don’t all fit, do this in batches. Let them brown skin side down for 8-10 minutes without touching. When they’re ready, the skin will no longer stick to the pan. Then flip them over and brown the bottoms for just two minutes. Place the thighs on your prepped baking sheet, skin side up, and smash the garlic cloves and put these on the baking sheet as well. Leave the butter mixture that remains in your pan–we’re going to use this!
In a small dish, add the remaining butter and melt in the microwave. Then add the thyme leaves and the juice of half the lemon. Mix together and brush over the chicken thighs. Bake for 35 minutes or until chicken reads 165 F on a thermometer.
Heat the pan you cooked the chicken in, butter, brown bits and all, over medium high heat. Add your diced shallot and let it soften for a couple minutes. Add the bread crumbs and cubes. Toast them for about 5 minutes until just slightly brown, but not tough. Then remove the pan from heat. Pour the bread mixture onto a serving platter. Remove your chicken from the oven once cooked and place the chicken thighs on top of the bread mixture.
In a salad bowl, add your arugula and drizzle over the oil and squeeze the other lemon half over the greens. Toss to coat and top the chicken on the platter with the arugula. Serve immediately.
I’m not joking when I say this is the best chicken ever. I hope you try it!
See the full recipe below!
- 8 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
- 3 tbsp butter
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 5 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
- 1 shallot, diced finely
- ½ loaf crusty sourdough bread (about 2½ cups diced)
- arugula (about 2 cups loosely packed)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat your oven to 400 F. Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil. Cut your bread into one inch cubes. Take half the bread and put in a food processor. Pulse until crumbly and no large chunks remain. Set aside.
- In a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, melt 1 tbsp of the butter. Pat your chicken thighs dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper generously. Place your chicken thighs skin side down in the skillet and cook without touching for 8-10 minutes until skin is crispy. Flip over and cook for just two minutes more. You may have to do this in two batches if all the thighs won't fit. Put the thighs skin side up on the prepared baking sheet. Smash the garlic cloves with the back of a knife and place on the pan as well.
- In a small bowl, add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter and microwave until melted, about 30 seconds. Add the fresh thyme leaves and juice of half the lemon to the butter. Stir together and brush over the chicken thighs. Bake for 30 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
- Meanwhile, in the same skillet you cooked the chicken in, leave the butter that remains in the skillet and heat over medium high heat and add your shallot and saute 2 minutes until softened. Add your bread cubes and bread crumbs to the skillet, stirring frequently to toast them, about 3-5 minutes until it just starts to crisp. Pour the mixture onto a large serving platter. Place your cooked chicken thighs on top.
- In a large salad bowl, add the arugula and drizzle on the oil and squeeze the other half of the lemon over the greens. Toss to coat. Top the chicken thighs on the platter with the salad and serve immediately.