‘Tis the season for tomatoes, and I am eating heirloom tomato salads and BLTs on repeat. Summer will be over before you know it, so take advantage of the produce now!
The origin of this simple, 45-minute, and 1-skillet recipe is a braised chicken dish made with canned, crushed tomatoes. With an abundance of cherry tomatoes in my larder, I tried the same recipe using fresh tomatoes instead of canned. Folks, we have a winner!
In general, I reach for chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts because I am a dark meat kind of gal. Also, chicken breasts have to be watched like a hawk, because if cooked for too long, they turn into a chewy, dry, and unpleasant eating experience. On the other hand, chicken thighs are almost impossible to overcook because they have a higher fat content.
I use skin on, bone-in chicken thighs for optimal flavor – the crispy skin adds texture and the bone enriches the meat while cooking. Try to get the best chicken possible. I always buy organic and cage-free – It may sound pretentious, but the flavor is really much better.
Adding preserved lemons to a sauce gives it that extra zing. If you don’t have preserved lemons, it’s all good – just add some lemon juice to the tomatoes before you put the chicken back in the skillet. I like to finish with basil (from our plant!) but any fresh herb will do.
~3 pounds skin on, bone-in, chicken thighs (6 pieces)
2 pints of cherry tomatoes
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and smashed
1 preserved lemon, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons of salt, plus more to taste
Fresh basil to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and sprinkle ~2 teaspoons of salt all over.
Place a large skillet over medium heat and wait for the pan to get hot (about 3 minutes). When the pan is hot, add the chicken thighs skin side down. Then walk away!
No seriously, leave the chicken alone while the skin browns. This will take about 5-7 minutes, but the chicken will tell you when it is ready. It’s ready when it lifts on the pan easily, so if the chicken is giving you any resistance, leave it cooking. Once the chicken releases from the pan, put aside on a large plate.
To the same pan, add the cherry tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the smashed garlic and cook for 10 minutes, gently shaking the pan every 1-2 minutes.
You want the tomatoes to start releasing their juices, so some are still whole and some are crushed. Then add the chopped preserved lemon and harissa chile flakes, stir, and cook for 5 more minutes.
At this point the sauce should smell fragrant and the tomatoes should be juicy. Carefully place the chicken thighs skin-side up back into the pan, nestled among the tomatoes.
Place the whole skillet in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the chicken juices run clear. I use a meat thermometer and make sure all the pieces are at 165 degrees.
Scatter freshly torn basil across the top, and serve with crusty bread and a simple green salad.