10.30.13: dinner (oregano pesto chicken thighs)

Oregano Pesto with Chicken Thighs
Oregano Pesto with Chicken Thighs

Welp. Well, I guess it’s really fall, even if the temperatures have crept close to the 70s a few days ago, and threaten to do so later this week. You know how I know this? The darkness has been making a hasty return sooner and sooner every day, and as someone who lives in the Northeast and prefers taking pictures of my food in natural light, I hate it. So please bear with me as I once again readjust to the awful artificial light in our apartment. Clearly, I will never take this transition well.

One of the few bright spots about this transition to colder weather is feeling the need to take the shears to my pots of herbs while they are still lush and vibrant. My oregano plant has been left to its own devices all season and has gotten positively unruly; because it’s considered to be really strong in taste, the only amount I’ve needed to use are a few sprigs here and there in recipes all summer. I despaired of finding a proper way to dispatch of it until I found this lovely pesto recipe from Saveur, which called for one and a half cups of packed oregano leaves and only half a cup of basil leaves. A little more than a week ago I trimmed back my plant to make the sauce to pour over pasta, and the results were not only really satisfying, but this pesto felt more autumnal compared to the ones I’ve been making all summer.

Oregano Pesto over Girelle
Oregano Pesto over Girelle. It was delicious.

Having more than enough leaves left for at least one more go, I decided to make it once again, only this time to coat some chicken thighs. It was inspired by a recipe offered in Saveur, but instead of using the suggested pesto Genovese and making a summery panzanella, I figured the oregano pesto with my favorite wintertime salad would be more seasonally appropriate.

This would have been perfect if I had not forgotten to do one crucial thing: season both sides of the thighs.

It’s a rookie mistake, one that I should have avoided thanks to watching several old episodes of Emeril Live! in which Emeril reminds us that we taste both sides of a piece of meat, so we should season them accordingly. But I thought the pesto would be enough during the roasting process, because the sauce would baste the thighs and hopefully coat them with its well-seasoned glory. Nope. No no no no. Always season the meat: maybe not as heavily as you normally would, but always season the freaking meat. It makes even the blandest, least-exciting dish more enjoyable.

If only I could only throw some salt and pepper at the early night sky to make it more palatable.

Oregano Pesto Chicken Thighs

Adapted from Saveur

Heat oven to 475 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil, and place chicken thighs in the pan, skin-side down. Season well with salt and pepper, and then turn over. Loosen the skin with your fingers, and then use about 3/4 of the pesto to stuff under the skin. Wash hands, and then season the top of the skin well with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 25 minutes, then open and brush the chicken with the rest of the pesto. Continue cooking for about another 5 minutes at most, and then remove from oven and let rest for 10-20 minutes.

Serve with salad and enjoy when cool enough to hold.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. biz319 says:

    I actually have chicken thighs on my dinner menu tonight, but my Italian husband doesn’t like pesto – wtf?!! Looks delicious though!

    1. elizabeth says:

      It took a few iterations of pesto to get my husband on board–if you try enough of them, you’ll find one he likes!

  2. shannon says:

    i’m pretty sure i heard a collective groan from all the food bloggers who prefer to take their food photos in natural light; i was one of them. This time of year is rough for photography: days are shorter, the light weaker and in different spots sometimes, and it’s difficult to adjust. I feel your pain.
    this sounds so appealing right now: i love basil pesto, but the oregano in this makes it somehow more appropriate for colder months, i feel. I’ll remember to season both sides of the thighs when i make this (something i’m also notorious for forgetting, so it’s a good reminder.)

    1. elizabeth says:

      Oregano just feels perfect for fall, am I right? Re: the natural light–I mean, in the grand scheme of things it’s not a big deal, but it’s just another reminder that it’s going to be dark and miserable for the next few months. Blerg. :/

  3. PinotNinja says:

    I’m intrigued by the oregano pesto — as you noted, I always use it sparingly because it packs such a punch. But, yet, when you just go all in on it, it turns into something totally delicious and not overpowering — I never would have thought that but now am dying to try.

    And I am absolutely making that salad this weekend for a friend’s early Thanksgiving feast this weekend where I was assigned the vague task of “bringing something healthy.”

    1. elizabeth says:

      Awesome! Tip on the salad: if you can, don’t dress it until you’re ready to serve because the arugula will get a little wilted from the vinegar and the citrus. What I do normally is supreme the oranges in the morning, and then make the dressing when I get home but only combine the garlic, salt, vinegar, and orange juice in the bottom of the salad bowl. Olive oil is then whisked in just before serving, then I toss the greens in, and then I toss in the fruit and nuts.

      Let me know how it turns out!

  4. Kim says:

    When the days get shorter, and I can’t take “decent” pictures anymore, I just give up blogging entirely. 🙂

    Also – I love the “season under the skin” method of cooking a chicken thigh. Folks don’t do that enough, I don’t think.

    Don’t sweat your rookie mistake. Just tonight, I served someone a seared rib eye without letting it rest first. His mashed potatoes underneath turned into a bloody gob on a plate. Oops.


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