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Garlicky Chicken with Lemon-Anchovy Sauce

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You think you don’t like anchovies, but you’re wrong.  Perhaps you are averse to popping a whole, pungent, furry little fish in your mouth (those are actually tiny edible bones).  That texture isn’t for everyone, but on the other hand, those little suckers will dissolve when cooked in oil, and they can lend an unparalleled depth of flavor to the backbone of a dish.  You can even purchase anchovy paste, and that dissolving work is essentially already complete.  That’s exactly what I used in this dish, and I love the edge of complexity the anchovy paste can add to a simple chicken dish, such as this one.

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This recipe is adapted from the brilliant and charming Melissa Clark, who writes for the New York Times.  It’s simple pan-seared, boneless, skinless chicken, augmented by a pan sauce of lemon, garlic, capers, and anchovies.  Note the whole garlic cloves in the pictures of the finished chicken; by the time this dish is done, they are soft, mellow, and totally edible.  Spiciness is adaptable to your preference with crushed red pepper flakes (I used about 1/3 teaspoon).  Perfect for a weeknight, this dish is quick-cooking, and can be made with either white or dark meat chicken, depending on your taste.    Chicken thighs are more forgiving of overcooking, and much more flavorful than their pale cousin, the chicken breast, but it’s the cook’s choice.  If white meat is more appealing, be sure to check out Melissa’s recipe for her suggestions on cooking times.  Like Melissa, I prefer boneless skinless chicken thighs; I also added some white wine to her formula to lend further sauciness, and I bumped up the lemony flavor with the addition of lemon zest.

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Whatever cut of chicken you choose, do yourself a favor and get a good bread to accompany this meal; let a slice sit in the serving platter, while you eat your chicken, so it can soak up all of that sauce.  I served this with roasted broccoli on the side too, and called it a complete meal.

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Garlicky Chicken with Lemon-Anchovy Sauce (adapted from Melissa Clark)

*Serves 2-4

  • About 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5 to 6 thighs)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled, divided
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon anchovy paste or 5 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers, patted dry
  • Chile flakes (anywhere from a pinch to about 1/3 teaspoon – you can use as much as you want, but not so much that it will burn)
  • 1 lemon zested, then halved and juiced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Fresh chopped parsley, for serving
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and let rest while you prepare the anchovy-garlic oil. Mince one of the garlic cloves and set it aside for later. In a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the 5 smashed whole garlic cloves, the anchovies, half of the capers, lemon zest, and chile flakes. Let cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the anchovies, until the garlic browns around the edges and the anchovies dissolve, 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken thighs and cook until nicely browned on one side, 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the thighs, and put a lid on the plan.  Place the pan in the oven and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
  3. When chicken is done, transfer thighs to a plate (be careful, as the pan handle will be hot). Place skillet back on the heat and add minced garlic, remaining capers, the juice of one lemon half, and white wine. Cook for about a minute or two, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, and allowing some of the liquid to reduce. Return chicken to the pan and cook it in the sauce for another 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Transfer everything to a serving platter. Squeeze the remaining lemon half over the chicken and garnish with plenty of chopped parsley. Serve.

*Melissa claims this recipe serves 4, but in my experience, two hungry people can easily finish this.


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