How do you survive your dinner prep?
I’m in a virtual cooking club with two friends who live in Wisconsin. Sometimes it’s just the thing to inspire a little creative deliciousness in the kitchen, like this recipe that I’m sharing with you today for flavorful bone-in skin-on chicken thighs with thinly sliced caramelized lemon, aromatics, and fresh herbs, in a delicious pan sauce.
No, we don’t video chat once a month, prepare the same dish, and pretend to sample each other’s masterpieces via FaceTime or Zoom.
We simply exchange general culinary advice, recipe ideas, and whatever inner queries come to mind while perusing the internet for daily meal inspiration.
Well, that and photos of whatever whiskey we’re sipping as we chop, slice, and saute in each of our personal kitchens.
A recent question from the newest member of our grub gang inspired this dish. Jon asked, “Are chicken thighs higher in fat, and is that why they taste better?”
As Alli and I (the club’s original founders) began simultaneously bogging down the group text with words like “tender” and “cheaper” and “more delicious,” Jon’s genuine astonishment became clear.
“I’ve been beholden to trash chicken breast all this time?!”
His words, not mine.
I assured Jon that chicken breast absolutely has its place.
Cubed and marinated for a lean, protein-heavy stir fry loaded with fresh ginger, garlic, and veggies? Yes. Chargrilled in a sandwich slathered with mayonnaise and topped with crunchy lettuce? Absolutely.
But when it comes to richness, juiciness, and an all-around better cooking partner in crime? Chicken thigh meat is the answer.
Dark meat is also incredibly forgiving, whereas chicken breast can become an overcooked catastrophe within minutes.
Particularly for the cooking method employed here to prepare this recipe, where the chicken is seared on the stovetop and then finished in the oven, I’m of the opinion that the thighs impart ten times more flavor to the overall dish. And I always opt for skin-on, bone-in thighs.
Why? It’s simple – bones and fat bring more flavor than lean protein.
When the chicken is seared, some of the fat and liquids that are released into the skillet combine deliciously with the sauteing aromatics. And when it is simmering, the bones release their meaty goodness into the oregano-infused cooking liquid.
Okay, I know you’re starving by now, but enough about the chicken! Let’s move on to the real breakout star of this one-pot prize in terms of flavor: the lemons.
I know, I know. You’ve had “lemon chicken” probably as many times as you’ve had cereal.
But if you haven’t had the pleasure of digging into a serving of thinly sliced, lightly charred lemons draped delicately over roasted poultry thighs, then we’re talking about two different things. As the citrus juices creep out and the rinds begin to brown, a tart, tangy glaze comes to life.
After a quick bee-bop through the oven, the finale features a pungent and herby white wine and garlic pan sauce. Toss in a couple pats of butter and you’re left with a silky-smooth mixture to drape over your finished dish.
Cooking club doesn’t sound so dorky now, does it?Print
Crank up the flavor with these caramelized lemon cast iron chicken thighs simmered with white wine, garlic, and bold, earthy oregano.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 3 lbs)
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more to taste
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 large lemon, thinly sliced into rounds
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, divided
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Season the chicken on both sides with the salt and pepper. Working in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, sear each piece until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side, and then set aside on a plate. Pour out and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the liquid left in the pan.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the oregano, and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and bring the sauce to a boil.
- Return the chicken and any juices that have collected on the plate back to the pan and arrange in a single layer. If your pan isn’t big enough, transfer everything to a baking dish. Place the lemon slices on top of the chicken, arranged to cover as much of the surface as possible without overlapping. Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the lemon slices are caramelized, about 35 to 40 minutes.
- Remove the chicken and lemons from the pan and return the sauce to the stovetop, over medium-high heat. Cook until the sauce has reduced by half, about 5-8 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper as needed, and then whisk in the butter until it is completely melted and thoroughly combined.
- Arrange the chicken thighs and caramelized lemon slices on a platter, pour the pan sauce over the top, garnish with the remaining oregano, and serve.
- Category: Chicken
- Method: Roasting
- Cuisine: Poultry
Keywords: chicken, lemon, garlic, white wine, oregano
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Season and Sear the Meat
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
The drier the skin is, the better the sear will be, so pat it dry with paper towels before seasoning. Season each piece of meat on both sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Working in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, sear each piece until it’s golden brown, for about 2 minutes per side, and then set it aside on a plate.
Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of the oil and chicken fat mixture left in the pan, and discard it. Be careful, because it’s hot!
Step 2 – Saute the Aromatics and Deglaze the Pan
Mince the garlic, and chop the oregano. Thinly slice the lemon into rounds and remove any seeds. Be sure to slice the lemon as thin as you can – I was able to get about nine slices from the large lemon that I used.
Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the oregano, and saute for about 30 seconds.
Next, it’s time to deglaze your pan. Add the white wine and scrape any browned bits or fond from the bottom of the pan. Add the stock and bring the sauce to a boil.
Step 3 – Top the Meat with Lemon and Bake
Arrange the thighs in the pan in a single layer, and return any juices that have collected on the plate to the pan. If your pan isn’t big enough, transfer everything to a baking dish instead.
Place the lemon slices on top of the chicken, arranged in a single layer without overlapping, and then bake until the meat is cooked through and the lemon slices are caramelized, about 35 to 40 minutes.
To check for doneness, chicken thigh meat should register 165°F on a meat thermometer. Be sure to insert the probe into the meat without touching the bone.
Step 4 – Reduce the Sauce and Whisk in Butter
Remove the meat and lemons from the pan and arrange them on a serving platter.
Return the sauce to the stove and place the pan over medium-high heat. If you transferred everything to a baking dish, return the sauce to your cast iron pan.
Cook until the sauce has reduced by half, for about 5-8 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, and then whisk in the butter. The sauce should be thick and creamy.
Pour the pan sauce over the top, and garnish with the remaining oregano.
Not Your Average Lemon Chicken
Once you’ve successfully mastered the art of caramelizing thinly sliced lemons, your chicken dinners will never be the same.
Don’t let those leftovers go to waste. Chop up any remaining meat and lemons, and toss them with asiago cheese-covered pasta for a sharp, salty delight.
Seafood and citrus are BFFs, so feel free to swap in a thick, meaty fish for your protein. Also, a heaping sidecar of garlic bread for swapping up every drop of that buttery wine sauce is never a bad idea.
Looking for even more chicken entrees to change things up at dinnertime? Give these recipes a try next:
If fresh oregano is too aggressive for your palate, you could always reach for rosemary instead. Please share your favorite herby poultry companions in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.
Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Jennifer Swartvagher on July 8, 2015. Last updated on January 21, 2021.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Fanny Slater
Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”