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Roast Chicken Thighs w/ Pancetta and Olives

2014 April 16
by Mrs. FoodieLawyer

Are olives a food group? If not, I personally think they should be. I could incorporate olives into just about any dish and be happy (except for Asian food, that would be weird). Their briny flavor complements all kinds of main ingredients, including chicken, fish, beef and vegetables. My love of these little fruits compels me to try pretty much any recipe calling for olives, including this one, which was even more compelling because it also calls for pancetta (Can you tell I’m a fan of all things salty?) The olives and pancetta are enhanced by their Mediterranean food friends olive oil, garlic, thyme and oregano; the red pepper flakes add a nice kick; and all of the components combine to elevate otherwise bland roast chicken to a flavorful new level. The only change I would make is to add more olives. Just kidding. Not really.

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Start by mixing up the rub for the chicken:  olive oil, thyme, oregano (the original recipe calls for rosemary, but we don’t like the piney taste so we used oregano instead), red pepper flakes and salt & pepper.

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The original recipe uses 2 whole chickens, cut into pieces, and yields enough for 8 servings. We adapted the original to accommodate just the 2 of us (and my aversion to cutting up a whole chicken) by using 3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead. Trim the fat from the chicken thighs and coat them with the olive oil mixture. To make for easier clean-up, we lined our baking pan with heavy duty foil before adding the chicken.

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Tear (if it’s thin) or cut the pancetta into 1 to 2-inch pieces and scatter them on top of the chicken.

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Don’t forget the garlic! Scatter very thinly sliced garlic on the chicken with the pancetta. The original recipe calls for whole, peeled garlic cloves, but we thought the thin slices would distribute the garlic flavor more widely and evenly over the chicken.

Roast the chicken in the oven preheated to 400 degrees until it begins to brown — about 8-10 minutes.

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Drizzle the white wine over the chicken and continue roasting — about 6-8 more minutes.

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Add the olives to the chicken and continue cooking until the chicken is done — about 12-15 more minutes, depending on the size and pieces of chicken you are using.

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When we plated the finished chicken, we noticed that a sauce had formed from the wine and cooking juices in the bottom of the pan. A buttery, tangy sauce created without any effort by the cook is like finding money in the pocket of a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in a while because they didn’t fit, but now they do. In other words, magic. Spoon some of the magic sauce over the chicken.

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We served the chicken with scalloped tomatoes. Our favorite things about this recipe, in no particular order:  it’s easy to make, yet tastes far more complex than we would’ve expected; the pancetta gets (and stays) nice and crispy; it creates its own delicious sauce; and the olives complete me the dish unlike any other ingredient.

Roast Chicken Thighs w/ Pancetta & Olives

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 slices pancetta, torn or cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the olive oil, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and coat the chicken with the mixture. Place the chicken in a small roasting pan lined with foil. Scatter the garlic slices and pancetta on top of the chicken. Roast the chicken in the oven until it begins to brown — about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Drizzle the wine over the chicken and continue roasting for 6-8 more minutes.
  4. Add the olives to the chicken and continue roasting until the chicken is done — about 12-15 more minutes.
  5. Remove the chicken to serving plates and spoon the accumulated juices from the bottom of the pan over the chicken.

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