This, folks, is one of my top favorite meals of all time! I have been making some rendition of it for a while BUT I consider this the best way to make it by far. Why? The chicken skin and potatoes get perfectly browned and crispy.
In this best-ever version, preserved lemon compound butter is stuffed under the chicken skin and used to add fat and flavor to the potatoes. I made the preserved lemons myself, but you can purchase them in specialty stores or sub lemon zest. The compound butter also includes grated garlic and black pepper.
The salsa verde is like a chimichurri with more ingredients. We are talking an Italian salsa verde, not the kind made with tomatillos. This Italian salsa verde is made with parsley, basil, capers, anchovies (yes! It does not taste fishy at all but adds tons of flavor), garlic, red wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil.
Blend it up in a processor and voilà: a super punchy condiment to brighten up and add complexity to the lemony chicken and potatoes. Even if you just made the salsa verde without the rest of the recipe (cue tears 😉) you would still be winning. This salsa verde goes great with lots of things. Lamb is my fav thing to eat it with aside from this chicken.
Now onto the potatoes. Oh these potatoes! The secret is the parchment paper. This enables you to get a super crispy bottom but without any sticking. Like no sticking at all. You get to eat all of the crispy goodness! To make them, the potatoes are boiled until soft. Then they are smashed and combined with some chopped yellow onion and the fab preserved lemon, garlic, and black pepper compound butter. Then press em’ gently into a pan lined with the aforementioned parchment paper.
The potatoes are baked sans chicken for about 30 minutes until they are getting brown and crispy. This is because the chicken thighs cook a lot faster than the time it takes for the potatoes to crisp up. Meanwhile, the chicken thighs are stuffed with more of the compound butter, seasoned on the outside with salt, and then seared on a super hot pan until the skin is crispy. Then they join the potatoes and get popped in the oven for a final 15-20 minutes of cooking.
The secret to the crispy skin is a super hot pan. This is like one of the only times you actually heat a pan all the way on high. There may be smoke, but the searing is brief. Then you place them skin side up in the oven which keeps it shatteringly crisp while allowing the meat to cook. Look at that crispiness!
Bonus: the chicken juices also seep into the potatoes while they finish in the oven adding even more flavor and, of course, love.
Now, you gotta get some green in your life – that is one of my mottos. So, aside from the salsa verde with its herb-packed power, this dish is paired with a simple arugula salad. The dressing is literally lemon juice and olive oil, because the best way to eat this is taking a bit of everything on your fork at once!
So in all, you have the savory and lemon spiked chicken and potatoes. The preserved lemon adds almost floral notes from the magic of fermentation. It just has a little something more than fresh lemon rind alone and lacks any bitterness. Then you have the funky, garlicky, herbacious salsa verde, full of saltiness and the tang of vinegar, softened by some lovely olive oil (use the best you have – it has more flavor!). Peppery and ever so slightly spicy arugula mixed with a bit of lemon juice for brightness and some more EVOO for body adds such a fantastic fresh contrast to the roasted potatoes and chicken, which would otherwise be quite heavy.
Here is a secret: this is a meal I make for people I love and for people who I think I might one day love a la a date night dinner. In both cases, it’s always been a winner. 😋
Crispy Chicken and Potatoes with Preserved Lemon Compound Butter and Salsa Verde
Servings: 2 (can be made 3 if you add another thigh – also you can make one serving with the same method in a smaller pan)
Time: about 50 minutes – see note on bottom of how to put it all together
- 2 chicken thighs (I used pasture-raised from a local farmer)
- 12 ounces of golden potatoes
- 1 cup of diced yellow onion
- 2 tbsp. of unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp. of preserved lemon, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 bunch of parsley, about 2 cups packed
- 1 cup of basil leaves, packed
- 2 tbsp. of capers
- 1 tbsp. of anchovy paste (or equivalent of chopped anchovy filets)
- 1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup of olive oil (more or less depending on how thin/thick you want the salsa verde)
- Baby arugula (about 1 cup packed per serving)
- 2 tsp. lemon juice (to dress arugula)
- 2 tsp. olive oil (to dress arugula)
Preserved Lemon, Garlic, and Black Pepper Compound Butter
- Set out the 2 tbsp. of butter to soften.
- When soft, add diced preserved lemon, 1 clove of minced garlic, black pepper, and a pinch of salt (the preserved lemon is salty so do not over do it. Taste some if you like!).
- Stir to combine everything and set aside
[Italian] Salsa Verde
- Add the parsley (chop the ends off of the stems, then add the whole bunch, stems and all), basil leaves, remaining 2 garlic cloves, capers, anchovy paste, red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped.
- Scrape down the sides. Then, while the processor is running, pour the olive oil into the spout at the top.
- Taste and add salt (I usually do not add any) and/or more olive oil. The sauce should be rather thick with pieces of individual ingredients separated, but bound, by the EVOO, much like a pesto.
Crispy Chicken and Potatoes with Preserved Lemon Compound Butter
- Boil the potatoes until fork-tender.
- Line a large, oven-safe sauté pan with parchment paper.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Drain the potatoes. Place the potatoes in the sauté pan. Smash with the back of a fork. Make sure not to mash completely, you want chunks of various sizes to add lots of texture.
- Add the diced onion and half of the compound butter to the potatoes. Gently stir to combine, then push down lightly and spread to fill the bottom of the pan.
- Place the potato mixture into the oven for 30 minutes.
- In the last 2 minutes of the potato cook time, preheat a skillet on high.
- Stuff chicken thighs with the remaining compound butter. Note: you do not have to use it all! In fact you probably will not. If you over stuff them, the butter will just leach out when searing. Just add enough under the skin to have a thin ‘layer’ under the skin. The remaining butter will be added to the potatoes when you add the chicken.
- After the 2 minute preheat, sear the chicken thighs skin side down until the skin is very golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Pull the potatoes out of the oven. Place the thighs on top. Add plops of the leftover compound butter scattered around the potatoes. Place back into the oven.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
- Mix the fresh baby arugula with 2 tsp. lemon juice and 2 tsp. olive oil.
- Serve the chicken and potatoes with the arugula salad and the salsa verde on the side.
- Here is the best order to do this in:
- Place butter on counter in a small bowl/jar
- Boil potatoes
- Make compound butter because the butter should be soft enough
- Smash potatoes and put the potato onion and butter mix in the oven (sans chicken)
- Make the salsa verde
- Sear the chicken and add to the potatoes – place back in the oven
- Relax until dinner!
- To replace the preserved lemon with lemon zest – I am guessing you would want to use half of the amount (so 1/2 tbsp. of zest).