Wednesday, September 4, 2013

warm salad of crispy chicken thighs

My dad is a true gardener.

He's willing to plant just about anything: tomatillos, epazote, Amish snap peas, fig trees, huckleberries, wild fennel, barbecue rosemary, frilly pink poppies.

It all shoots up happily in his small backyard, and he tends it with seaweed and horse manure and anything else it might need.

Scott and I like Dad's garden so much that it actually figured into when we decided to go to B.C. this summer (August = more ripe things in the garden).

One morning at Dad's a couple weeks ago, we were making scrambled eggs the way we always make them there: with at least six or seven different herbs from the garden.

Then my genius husband remembered Nick Nairn's warm salad with crispy chicken thighs, which just so happens to be one of Scott's specialities. He knew we could use copious amounts of herbs from Dad's garden, and we were heading off to the Courtenay farmers' market later that morning.

Sure enough, we wandered around at the market, picking up soft ripe tomatoes, fresh green beans, dark green lettuce, a new little fennel bulb . . . all the fixings.

That evening, Scott and Dad set to work on the salad and frying the chicken, while I sat in the back little office and caught up on email (because my life is glamourous like that).

Half an hour later, they called me to the table. The chicken was warm and crispy, the salad was crunchy and sweet and a little bit sharp with the vinaigrette, and it was the perfect summer meal.

Cooking note: Scott is militant about frying the chicken Nick's way. He insists that you just keep frying it for more than 20 minutes without fussing at it. That way, the skin gets crisp and golden. I worry about the meat overcooking, but thighs are moist and tender to begin with and somehow they turn out perfectly with this method. ("Of course they do," I hear Scott saying in my head, "because that's how you're supposed to do it." Right.)

Bonus photo of Dad and me in his garden last year

one year ago: ode to victoria and little house on the prairie
two years ago: salmon for dinner and hop & go fetch it: german edition
three years ago: black & blue scotch berries and plant yourself some garlic

warm salad of crispy chicken thighs
slightly adapted from Nick Nairn

4 boneless chicken thighs with skin on (about 140 g. or 5 oz. each)
2 tbsp. neutral oil, such as grapeseed or canola
1 garlic clove, lightly crushed
1 tbsp. lemon juice
140 g. (5 oz.) salad greens
50 g. (2 oz.) green beans, blanched in boiling water for 3 minutes
12 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, summer savory, basil, etc.)
1/2 red pepper, seeded and julienned (optional)
1/2 c. fennel bulb, finely sliced (optional)
2 tbsp. vinaigrette (to follow)
chives, to taste, cut into 3 or 4 sections

Set a frying pan over low-medium and heat it. Season the chicken thighs well with salt and pepper. Pour the oil in the pan and put the chicken in with the skin side down. Add the garlic to flavour the oil. Cook until the skin is very crisp and releases from the bottom of the pan, about 20  30 minutes.

Turn the chicken over and remove the garlic. Cook for another 2  3 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and shake the pan to move it around. Cook 3 more minutes. Remove the chicken and let it rest 5 minutes.

To assemble the salad, put the greens, beans, tomatoes, herbs, red pepper and fennel and in a bowl. Toss with just enough vinaigrette to just coat. Divide between the serving plates. Cut each thigh into 6 or 7 strips and place on top each salad. Garnish with lots of long pieces of chives. Eat immediately, while the chicken is crisp and wonderful.

from Je sais cuisiner

1 tbsp. white wine or rice vinegar*
3 tbsp. good quality olive or neutral oil

Mix a bit of salt with the vinegar. Whisk in the oil and taste for seasoning.

* Really, any nice vinegar you like.


  1. It would be so hard for me not to fuss with the chicken while it was cooking! But it looks so so delicious, I want to try it

  2. I think you'll be happy if you do (try it and not fuss)!