We’ve been on a bit of a black garlic kick these days. Black garlic is just regular garlic that’s been carefully aged at a low temperature and a humid environment over the course of weeks or even months. When ready, the cloves turn soft and inky-black, with an almost molasses-like flavor. It is much less pungent than fresh, similar to roasted garlic (which makes a great substitute), if a little funkier. It also happens to have added health benefits, including twice the amount of antioxidants than fresh.
Searing and oven-roasting is a fantastic method for chicken thighs (or breasts) because it delivers the best of both worlds: super-crisp skin, and soft, tender meat. We develop a lot of recipes with this technique. Check out Miso-Butter Chicken with Garlic Pan Sauce, Chicken, Leeks and Spinach in a Creamy Wine Sauce, Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon, Garlic and Olives.
Cooking the chicken
The process is simple, though having a good, heavy oven-safe skillet is key. Our go-to is the workhorse of our kitchen, a Lodge 12-inch cast iron. If the sauce is particularly acidic, we opt for an enameled pan, like this Le Creuset skillet or shallow braiser.
To start, heat the oven to 375ºF and make sure a rack is set in the middle slot. Dry the chicken well on paper towels (no need to rinse!) and trim off any large pockets of fat or extra skin. Season each piece generously with kosher salt and pepper on both sides. If you haven’t already, get your shallots slices and the garlic minced. There’s not a lot of prep work in this recipe so I’ll usually do it as the chicken is browning.
Heat the oil in the skillet set on medium-high. Once the oil is shimmering and just beginning to smoke, add the chicken skin-side down. The trick to getting deep golden brown skin is to allow at least a little bit of room between each piece to allow any steam to escape. Drying the chicken well helps too. Using tongs or a spatula, press each piece down flat so as much of the skin as possible makes contact with the pan. Then, leave it alone. Don’t lift it, nudge it or check it for at least 5 minutes.
At this point you can check and make sure it’s not getting too dark in spots. If it is, turn the heat down a little and move the pieces around so they darken evenly. If the skin is sticking at all, don’t force it. Let it keep browning and try again in another minute or two. It will probably take about 10 minutes or so for the skin to get deep golden brown. Remove the chicken to a plate, skin-side up and set it aside.
Making the sauce
Turn the heat down to medium and if there’s a lot of fat in the pan, remove all but 2 tablespoons of it. Add the shallots and stir them often until they soften and turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add both the fresh and black garlic and cook until it smells fragrant, just about a minute. Sprinkle the flour over and stir it in so it coats the vegetables. Cook the flour for just a minute or so, making sure no dry flour remains. Then keep stirring constantly as you pour in the wine, cream and broth and bring the whole thing to a simmer. It will thicken pretty quickly, so stir it well to make sure no lumps of flour remain.
Finish the dish
Nestle the chicken in the sauce, skin-side up and bake it until the chicken is cooked through. It should read 165ºF on a thermometer. Depending on the size of the pieces, it can take between 15 and 30 minutes (breasts will cook faster, so check them after 10 minutes). Once the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces to a platter and tent it loosely with foil to keep it warm.
Put the skillet back on low heat (be careful, the handle will be hot!), and stir in the spinach, a handful at a time, until it’s all wilted. Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper, as needed. If the sauce is too thick, stir in a little extra chicken stock or water, until it reaches the consistency you like.
Pour the sauce around the chicken, sprinkle on a little parsley and squeeze a little lemon juice over the pieces. Serve hot with potatoes, rice or crusty bread for mopping up the sauce!
Crispy Chicken Thighs with Creamy Black Garlic Sauce
- 6 to 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large shallots thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 large cloves fresh garlic minced or grated
- 4 large cloves black garlic (or substitute roasted garlic) minced
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup half and half or heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups homemade or low sodium chicken broth
- 5 ounces baby spinach (about 3 cups)
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
- 1 lemon cut in quarters for squeezing
- Heat the oven to 375ºF and set a rack in the middle slot.
- Dry the chicken well and trim any excess fat. Season both sides of the chicken generously with kosher salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large (12-inch), oven-safe skillet on medium-high. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken in a single layer, skin-side down. Flatten each piece to ensure good contact with the pan. Let it cook, undisturbed, until the skin is crisp and deep golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the chicken to a plate, skin-side up and set it aside (the chicken will not be fully cooked at this point).
- If there is a lot of fat in the pan, remove all but 2 tablespoons. Turn the heat down to medium, add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until they turn soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh garlic and black garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour and stir until no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine, cream and chicken broth and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Add the chicken back into the pan, skin-side up, place in the oven and bake until the chicken is fully cooked through (165ºF on an instant read thermometer), about 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces (breasts will cook faster so check after 10 minutes).
- Remove the skillet from the oven, transfer the chicken to a serving platter and cover it loosely with foil to keep warm. Turn the heat under the skillet on low, and stir in the spinach, a handful at a time, until it’s wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Taste the sauce and season it with salt and pepper, as desired. Spoon the sauce around the chicken and sprinkle with chopped parsley and squirt some lemon juice on top just before serving.