It’s the end of the long workday (or the start of an extra-long week) and we’re hungry. Like, “can’t-think-straight” hungry. Luckily, Food52 contributor EmilyC wants to do all the thinking for us. In Dinner’s Ready, her monthly column on weeknight wonders, she shares three simple, flavor-packed recipes that are connected by a single idea or ingredient. Stick with Emily, and you’ll have a good dinner on the table in no time. Today, Emily shows us how to make never-boring, totally-simple chicken dinners in one pan.
You know that little skip in your step you get on a day when something good happens? Maybe you get good news from a friend or a family member, or a project at work comes to a successful close, or it’s a good hair day even though you haven’t had a cut in months. (It’s the small things, right?)
This is exactly the way I feel when I make a good weeknight dinner—especially on nights when I resist the temptation to order take-out and instead pull together a meal with ingredients I have on hand. The first bite of something warming and hearty and flavorful is an instant pick-me-up—no matter what has happened in my day up to that point.
And when that good dinner comes together all in one pan and saves me from a sink full of dirty dishes…well, that’s true weeknight happiness in my book.
I’m a huge fan of one-pan cooking (from Instant Pot to soup pot to sheet pan), but recently, I’ve had one-skillet chicken dinners on repeat in my kitchen. They’re not only simple to prepare, the number of directions you can take your favorite cuts of chicken in a skillet (whether cast-iron, nonstick, or stainless steel) never fails to surprise me.
One night, I can sear bite-sized morsels of boneless thighs hot and fast on the stovetop—then use the golden, rendered fat to char greens or another quick-cooking vegetable. Another night, I can slather drumsticks in a boldly flavored rub or marinade, perch them on top of beans or root vegetables, and let my oven work its magic. In this current cycle of cooking day in and day out, these types of sure wins are not only appreciated but essential.
Below are three of my latest one-skillet chicken creations that are perfect for this final stretch of winter—or any time of year. All are easily customizable, can go from kitchen to table in under an hour, and are hearty and satisfying enough to stand alone. They’ll make you feel accomplished given how easily they come together (no one needs to know that but you!). Think of them as instant mood boosters at the end of a long day.
Marinate bite-sized pieces of chicken in soy sauce, toss them in cornstarch, and fry in butter until golden and crispy—then char chopped cabbage and scallions in the same skillet with more soy and butter until tender. Sprinkle with furikake or sesame seeds before digging in, and marvel at your winning weeknight dinner.
This simple dinner reinforces two things: Canal House’s “Genius” technique for cooking skin-on chicken thighs yields the best, most shatteringly crispy skin every single time. Also, the slick of rendered fat that’s left behind in the skillet is liquid gold. In this warming meal, it’s used to add rich, savory dimension to brothy white beans strewn with chopped tomatoes and leafy greens.
This bold and brightly spiced chicken comes complete with caramelized dates, tangy lemon slices, sweet-and-sour onions, and schmaltz-y chickpeas (all in a single skillet!). If those reasons aren’t compelling enough, the tahini marinade cooks down into a sticky, savory, ridiculously good pan sauce while it roasts.
What’s your go-to skillet chicken dinner? Let us know in the comments.