The past couple of months have been absolutely bananas. Between working my zombie drug dealer shifts at the hospital, zipping through Asia, throwing a book release party, and pin-balling my way around Southern California, Texas, and the Pacific Northwest to meet readers on my book tour, I haven’t spent much time at home with my family, let alone cook for them. So you can imagine my delight when Henry and the Os finally joined me in Portland and Seattle for the last few days of my book tour—and I was even happier to return home on Monday.
After dragging our luggage into our entryway, I headed straight for my kitchen. I was dead tired, but it had been a while since I whipped up a home-cooked meal. I was itching to fire up the stove, despite having next-to-nothing in the fridge. So what’s a lazy (but hungry) mommy to do? Why, fry up a batch of Cracklin’ Chicken (a.k.a. Lil-O’s favorite crispy chicken thighs), of course!
Longtime readers of this blog (and owners of my new cookbook!) know that my younger son is a picky and headstrong little guy who wasn’t exactly keen on this whole Paleo thing. At the age of three, he almost ran away from home when the whole-grain mac & cheese disappeared from our cupboard.
The transition wasn’t smooth, but with persistence and patience, we got our whole family eating the same dishes at mealtimes. Obviously, compromise is a necessity, and I do my best to make dishes we all can agree on. When I ask the kids for suggestions, Lil-O always asks for Cracklin’ Chicken. (That is, when he’s not throwing out made-up names for imaginary dishes like “Big Buddy with a Ham Chuddy” or “Chewy Butt Stew.”)
Cracklin’ Chicken’s one of my favorite dishes, too. These crispy-on-the-outside, tender-and-juicy-on-the-inside boneless chicken thighs are quick and easy to prepare, and taste fantastic with whatever seasoning I have on hand—even if it’s just salt and pepper. And for those of you who care, this recipe’s Whole30- and 21DSD-friendly to boot!
Some key tips for this recipe:
- Buy bone-in, skin-on thighs—they’re inexpensive. Plus, the bones are easy to remove, and the crispy skin is what makes this dish. I vastly prefer thighs over breasts for this recipe—to me, breasts tend to dry out and end up more bland.
- Use a pair of sharp kitchen shears to remove the bones. (Reserve the bones in the freezer for your next batch of bone broth!)
- Dry the chicken thighs well, and season both sides of the thigh with salt, but ONLY the meat side gets additional seasoning and/or pepper. If you put other seasonings on the skin, it’ll run the risk of burning. Then, everyone will be sad. Tears are not tasty.
Ready for my fool-proof method for a crowd-pleasing, kid-approved chicken dinner?
Gather these ingredients:
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (approximately 4 pounds)
- 2 teaspoons seasoning blend of choice (optional)
Here’s what you do:
Grab some chicken thighs and a sharp pair of kitchen shears.
Blot the chicken dry with a paper towel.
Starting at one end, carefully cut out the bone, making sure you don’t cut through the meat. Stay as close to the bone as possible.
When you get to the other end, trim around the joint and cartilage and remove the bone.
Keep a container handy to save the bones for bone broth. Your mom will high-five you for being frugal. (Or, if you have my mom, she’ll fist bump you. Okay, not really. She’ll just nod approvingly after you’ve turned away.)
If extra skin or fat is flapping around and hanging off the thighs, you can trim it off as well. But don’t cut too much away, because the skin will shrink when you fry it.
Believe me: You don’t want to skimp out on the cracklins’.
Flatten the chicken with a meat pounder (or cut a gash in the thickest part of each thigh piece with your scissors) to ensure uniform cooking.
Turn the chicken skin-side-up, and sprinkle salt on the skin from way up high, like it’s snowing. That way, the skin will be seasoned evenly. (Don’t believe me? Listen to Thomas Keller then. Did you know that he allegedly flirted with Paleo while on his Bouchon Bakery book tour? And did you know that I started that rumor?)
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
Melt the ghee in the pan and place four chicken thighs skin-side down in the hot pan.
Season the meat side with your favorite seasoning blend (I’m a fan of using my own special Magic Mushroom Powder, a recipe available in our cookbook and iPad app.) If your seasoning blend of choice doesn’t include salt, you may want to add a bit more kosher salt to the chicken.
Let the skin fry undisturbed until crispy and golden brown (around 7-10 minutes), rotating the pan 90 degrees at the halfway point to make sure the heat from the burner is uniformly distributed.
Pro tip: You may want to cover the pan with a splatter guard to keep your stove (relatively) clean.
Flip the chicken and cook for 3 more minutes or until cooked through.
Transfer the chicken to a wire rack and rest ’em for 5 minutes.
Repeat the steps above with the four remaining thighs.
When you’re ready to eat, slice them up and dig in!
Looking for more recipes? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes on my iPad® app, and in my cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel 2013).