Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives

We follow our time-tested one-pan skillet chicken method to make these crispy thighs with lemon, olives and garlic. 

If you follow this blog at all, I have a pretty good idea what you’re thinking. And yes, I admit it. I make pan-roasted chicken a lot. Like, a lot a lot.

Examples: Chicken With Lime, Garlic And Cilantro / Chicken With Lemon, Garlic And Basil / Skillet Chicken With Wine, Shallots And Mustard.

But it’s not just because I’m boring. It’s also because this method is a simple and fool-proof way to get perfect chicken with crispy skin and tender meat, every time. Luckily, it happens to be extremely versatile so though the method may be similar, the flavors are completely distinct.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives

I love the color of the bright green olives with the dark onions and lemons.

A quick and slightly strange aside: A couple of weeks ago, Matt and I went to the Garlic Festival in Saugerties, New York. We had planned a fews days away and it happened to coincide with our schedule so we thought, what the hell, it’ll be a fun stinky little adventure. Little did we know that this thing is HUGE. In fact, it’s the second largest garlic festival in the country (curse you, Gilroy, CA. CURSE YOU.) and people take it very, very seriously. We saw more than one person in a garlic costume. There were stands where you could taste slices of raw garlic. There was garlic ice cream (actually delicious). There were, I kid you not, Morris dancers (not sure how they were garlic related but hilarious, nonetheless). Here’s a few shots, if you’re interested.

My version is adapted from a Tasting Table recipe by Marco Canora (of Hearth in NYC). I brought down the amounts so that it’s now a perfect recipe for two (generously), or four if you have a few sides (though it’s easily scaled back up if you want more). I also swapped out thyme for the oregano because I love it with both chicken and onions, and I also added a bit of stock to make it just a little bit saucy (nudge nudge, wink wink).

It’s still not going to have a lot of liquid but the onions become sweet and almost jammy and give the chicken great flavor and moisture. My absolute favorite part of this dish are the roasted lemons. Oh my god, are they good. The slow cooking eliminates almost all the bitterness so they turn into almost a savory marmalade. Absolutely delicious.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives

The roasted lemons become soft, almost like savory marmalade.

You could use whatever type of olives you like best but I would avoid the canned black ones because they just don’t have enough flavor.

Here’s a nerdy fact for you: the reason canned black olives taste … like they do (horrible) is because they are actually unripe green olives that have been piped with oxygen which turns them black, then soaked in lye which softens them enough to make them edible (debatable). Then once they’re canned, they are heated to a very high temperature in order to prevent botulism. Sounds tasty, right?

Nerd Tips:
  • Julia Child was wrong, don’t wash your chicken! Just use a clean cutting board, dry it well on paper towels, and cook it to the proper temperature (165º F / 75º C).
  • Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 20 minutes before you plan to cook it.
  • A heavy cast iron or enameled cast iron pan helps you get a really dark, even sear on the chicken. Whatever pan you use, make sure it’s oven-safe.
  • I think chicken cooked on the bone has more flavor (and the crispy skin is omgdelicious) but you could substitute skinless, boneless breasts or thighs. If using breasts, be very careful not to overcook them or they’ll be dry.
  • You could use a Greek olive mix or any kind of cured and jarred olive you like. Kalamatas would be delicious.
  • Dried herbs are much stronger than fresh so use about 1/3 less if you’re substituting (for example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, use only 1 teaspoon of dried, since 3 teaspoons equal 1 tablespoon).

 

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Yield: 2-4 servings Prep Time:15 minutes / Cook Time: 1 hour / Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Author:
Serves: 2-4 servings
Ingredients
  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Coarse Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled but whole
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • ½ cup olives, pitted (mixed Greek, Kalamata, or Cerignola)
  • ½ cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 lemon, juiced
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180ºC
  2. Dry the chicken well and season both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Set a large, oven-proof skillet on medium-high heat (the pan should be large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer). Add the oil and place the chicken, skin-side down, and leave it alone until the skin is deep golden brown, 7-9 minutes. Flip the chicken and scatter the garlic cloves into the pan. Cook until garlic is brown is spots and beginning to soften (don’t let garlic burn), 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken and garlic from the pan and set aside.
  4. To the same pan, add the onions, lemon slices and thyme, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions have softened and turned golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and lemon juice. Add back the thighs (skin-side up, including any accumulated juices) and scatter in the garlic and the olives. Transfer the pan to the oven. Bake, uncovered, for 25-35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (165º F / 75º C on an instant read thermometer).
Notes
UPDATE:This recipe has been updated. We've lessened the amount of chicken stock by a ½ cup because a few of you felt the dish had just a bit too much liquid. Thank you for your feedback!

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives