If you’ve ever wondered how to make juicy, tender chicken thighs with shatteringly crisp skin, well, this is your lucky day. This recipe deploys a technique called the “cold-pan method,” which was first introduced to me by Chris Morocco. Things have not been the same for me since. When you start chicken thighs skin-side down in a cold pan (that’s right—cold!) and allow the skin to very gradually cook, it releases all of their moisture and fat, landing you smack-dab in CrispyTown, USA.
- Position a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Prep the fennel: Trim off the tough root end and any stalks or fronds of 1 large fennel bulb. Cut in half lengthwise and slice into ½-inch-thick wedges. Never handled a fennel before? Watch this video, it’s super simple.
Crisp up that chicken skin:
✦ Pat 2½ pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs dry with paper towels to remove any surface moisture.* Season the chicken all over with 2½ teaspoons salt and a few good cranks of coarsely ground black pepper. Arrange the thighs skin-side down in a dry, unheated 12-inch cast-iron skillet. Set over medium heat and cook, undisturbed, until the skin releases easily from the pan and is light golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes.
✦ Once released, move the chicken thighs around a bit to ensure even browning. Parts of your skillet will get hotter than others. Continue to cook until the skin is very crisp and deep golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes longer. Use tongs to transfer the thighs to a plate, skin-side up.
* Surface-area moisture will inhibit browning, so whenever it’s a nicely seared crispy crust you’re after, make sure you’re starting with the driest surface possible.
- Add the fennel: Using tongs, add the fennel wedges to the skillet, turning them to coat in some of the rendered chicken fat. Season with ½ teaspoon salt. Return the chicken to the skillet, skin-side up. Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast 10 to 15 minutes, flipping the fennel halfway through for even browning, until the chicken meat is no longer pink and the fennel is caramelized.
Finish your mise:
✦ Meanwhile, thinly slice 6 scallions and 3 garlic cloves.
Finish the chicken:
✦ Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the thighs to a plate, skin-side up to stay nice and crisp.
✦ Add 3 tablespoons butter, the scallions, and the garlic to the fennel in the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the scallions and garlic have softened but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.**
✦ Stir in 10 ounces peas, ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, ½ cup water, and ½ teaspoon salt, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet (that’s flavor!), and cook until the peas are bright green and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
✦ Stir in the juice of ½ lemon. Taste the peas and add more salt or lemon juice as needed until it tastes super lemony and really tasty.
**Browning the garlic brings out bitter notes in the flavor, so most often it’s best to avoid getting any color at all.
- Serve: Cut whatever lemon remains into wedges for serving. Divide the peas and fennel among 4 shallow bowls and top each with a chicken thigh or two, a lemon wedge, and some torn mint.
Reprinted from Cook This Book. Copyright © 2021 by Molly Baz. Photographs copyright © 2021 by PEDEN+MUNK. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.