Can you believe it’s been about 2 years since I made an oven-baked chicken thigh risotto for this blog? Once was a time when a chicken thigh risotto was a weekly occurrence but I’m pretty much a vegetarian now and so it’s sort of dropped off the radar but my good friend Lisa Potter Dixon made a version of my marmalade chicken the other day and it inspired me to fall back in love with the humble chicken thigh.
Now… onto the main event.
In terms of portion size I would suggest between 2 and 3 thighs per adult. I can easily eat three thighs for dinner but it also depends on what they’re being served with. If I’m making an ‘all-in-one’ roast with all the vegetables and thighs together then I’ll go for three thighs per person… if there’s added mash or rice then maybe 2. Obviously every family is different but hopefully this will help you judge your purchasing needs based on your numbers for dinner.
This is an ‘all-in-one’ dish which for most families or really anyone living today’s hectic lifestyle is a godsend. One large pot, throw everything in, it could not be simpler. Over the years I’ve gone from a shallow metal oblong roasting tin, (the kind that comes with the oven,) through to a large ceramic dish and have finally settled on what I think is the best pot for the job which is a shallow, cast-iron casserole dish with a lid.
You can find all kinds of these dishes on-line and in stores; from the very expensive Le Creuset style pot to the cheaper copies and I think whichever you go for you won’t regret as I use mine for so many dishes. It actually lives on the hob and I could really do with 2 more. My favourite is my Denby Pavillion 30cm Cast Iron Shallow Casserole. I’ve had it for 10 years and it’s still going strong. You can compare and contrast from this at your leisure.
The Star of the show
And now for the star ingredient, the chicken thighs themselves. Every supermarket sells them, every butcher has them, they are ubiquitous and cheap. If you want to splash out a bit and buy free-range (and I implore you to do so) then go for it because even at the fanciest free-range prices a packet of 8 chicken thighs is still cheaper than a whole regular bird and so much better for animal welfare.
Whatever you choose, for this dish you want skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, no messing around. End of. In preparation for the dish, open the packet of thighs but leave them in the box, don’t wash or trim them, it’s entirely unnecessary and in fact recent studies have shown that washing raw chicken in a domestic environment can spread more risk, these beauties are going into a hot oven for a couple of hours and there really isn’t anything better for killing germs than fire!
Next, let’s talk vegetables. I’m a classicist at heart and this dish should really be all about the basic veg, classic root vegetables such as carrots, swede, potatoes and then bulbs such as celery, onion and garlic. These should be enough but of course you can add whatever’s in season, beetroot is always good, as is celeriac, fennel, turnips, parsnips. Go wild or don’t, whatever you fancy.
- 1 large white onion – peeled, quartered and then each quarter halved so you have 8 wedges
- 1/3 rd celery bunch* (see notes below)
- 1 large carrot – cut lengthways then cut into chunks
- ½ a swede – peeled and chopped into chunks the same size as the carrots
- 8 cloves of garlic – skin on (life is too short)
- fresh rosemary and thyme – two, 3 inch long stalks of each
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 9 chicken thighs
- 250g arborio risotto rice
- 100ml white wine (optional)
- 1/2 litre vegetable stock
I’m using my 30cm shallow casserole dish with a lid but you can use a large roasting tin and aluminium foil. Nothing too deep, the chicken thighs should all be able to sit in one layer at the top.
Pre-heat the oven to 160C fan assisted.
Place your cooking dish on your work surface alongside your chopping board and have all your herbs and seasoning ready to hand. Open your packet of chicken thighs ready.
Place all the vegetables into the dish, season well with salt and pepper and shred the herbs over them. Sprinkle with a little olive oil (you really don’t need much fat as there will be a lot coming from the thighs) and then mix them all up with your hands.
time for the thighs
Now lay your chicken thighs over the vegetables, skin side down. You may have to wedge them in there like a flabby jigsaw but they will fit and the whole dish will shrink as it cooks. Wash your hands well and pour over the white wine if you’re using, then season generously with salt and pepper. Place the lid on and put it in the oven for 30 mins.
Take the dish out of the oven and place it on a flat, heat-proof surface. Take the lid off and carefully remove the chicken thighs. Sprinkle in the rice and stir it all around. Pour in the stick. Lay the chicken thighs back on top but this time, turn the chicken thighs over so they are now skin up. (I use tongs for this.) Season generously with salt and pepper, place the lid back on and bung it back into the oven for a further 20 minutes.
Finally, remove the lid, turn the heat up to 180C and let the skin go gloriously crispy for a further 20 minutes. There should be no flabby chicken skin left, it should be a dark golden colour and the liquid will have been absorbed but the rice. If the skin is not crispy enough just put it back into the oven for another few minutes, believe me, these thighs can take it!
And that’s it. That’s your dish. I like to place the dish in the middle of the table with a big spoon and get everyone to help themselves. Serve it as it is or maybe steam something green because you feel it might make you a better person.
Eat and of course, enjoy!