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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

A weeknight skillet chicken dinner, rich with greens

Herby skillet chicken with greens. This forgiving and adaptable weeknight dinner stars tender chicken thighs, braising greens and whole garlic cloves. Food styled by Simon Andrews. (Armando Rafael/The New York Times)

By Melissa Clark

If the overabundance of root vegetables like sunchokes, black radishes and kohlrabies the size of my head is the late-winter scourge of my CSA, the steady supply of braising greens is its redemption. No matter how many bunches of curly kale, sturdy collard greens and steely chard arrive each week, there’s always a place on my table for their floppy, verdant magic.

I sauté them most nights in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes, adding whatever soft herbs need using up. A splash of water, stock or wine helps wilt and soften everything, especially the hardier plants like collards and broccoli raab. We pile them on toast, submerge them in soup, top them with an egg or toss them into pasta. And when no one else is home, I simply spoon the cooked greens into a bowl, sprinkle Parmesan over the top and devour the entire bunch all by myself.

For this recipe, I nestled my beloved greens in their pan with chicken thighs, another weeknight favorite. It makes for a skillet dinner that’s not much harder than cooking the greens by themselves, but a lot more substantial.

I chose boneless, skinless thighs because they’re forgiving and cook quickly. But bone-in, skin-on thighs are a great alternative, provided you add about 10 minutes to the roasting time. Chicken breasts — either bone-in or boneless — will also work well. Boneless breasts have a narrow window of being done but not overdone, usually about 5 to 7 minutes less than boneless thighs, so watch them carefully. In any case, you’ve got options.

Ditto for the greens. Kale, collards and chard are my usuals for braising, because that’s what’s usually in the CSA box. But the broccoli spigarello and broccoli raab I tested while developing this recipe were also divine, adding pleasing bitter notes to the mix. Just avoid baby tender greens, which easily turn to mush.

Grated lemon zest mixed in right at the end adds some revelatory brightness. And if you’re a fan, olives or capers gives this a briny zing that rounds out the earthiness of the greens.

Serve this skillet meal alongside something that will capture all the savory, schmaltzy sauce — crusty bread, rice or noodles. Or you could pop a pan of root vegetables into the oven to roast along with the chicken. If they’re going to keep arriving, we may as well give them a chance to shine.

Herby skillet chicken with greens

In this easy skillet meal, seared boneless chicken thighs are nestled on a bed of herbs, browned whole garlic cloves and greens before the pan is popped into the oven to roast until golden. Just before serving, butter, lemon zest and (optional) olives or capers are tossed into the pan drippings, adding creaminess and a tangy, salty spark to the sauce. Serve this over rice or with roasted or mashed potatoes, or with bread for soaking up the drippings.

Yield: 4 servings

Total time: 35 to 45 minutes


6 garlic cloves, 5 smashed and peeled, 1 finely grated or minced

1 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond Crystal, or use 1/2 teaspoon Morton), more as needed

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Large pinch of red-pepper flakes

1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (see Tip)

1 bunch scallions

About 1 large or 2 small bunches kale, collard greens, mustard greens, mature spinach or other hardy greens (12 ounces)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

1 cup chicken stock or water

1 cup chopped soft herbs, such as cilantro, dill, mint or basil, or a combination, more for serving

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 lemon, zested and halved

1 to 3 tablespoons chopped olives or capers (optional)


1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together grated garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, coriander and red-pepper flakes. Rub all over chicken, then set aside to rest at room temperature while you prepare vegetables.

2. Thinly slice the scallions, separating the white and green parts. Pull the leaves off the greens and coarsely chop them (discard stems or save for another use). You should have 8 to 9 cups.

3. Heat a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high. Add oil and smashed garlic cloves, stirring to coat garlic in oil, then add chicken. Cook, stirring the garlic occasionally, until chicken is deeply browned on one side, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn chicken and cook for 1 to 2 minutes on the other side, just until no longer pink (the chicken will still be very raw inside). Transfer chicken to a plate but leave garlic in the pan.

4. Stir in scallion whites (save the greens for later) and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until softened and lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in stock, greens, herbs, another pinch of salt and a drizzle of oil. Bring liquid to a simmer, tossing to wilt the greens (you might have to add the greens in batches, adding more as they wilt down).

5. When the greens are wilted, nestle chicken into skillet, browned side up, and pour in any juices from the chicken plate. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and transfer chicken to a plate.

6. If pan juices are watery, bring to a simmer over high heat and cook until thickened slightly. Add scallion greens, butter, lemon zest, and olives or capers (if using) to the pan, stirring until the butter melts. Squeeze in a little lemon juice, then taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed. Return chicken to the pan and toss with the saucy greens. Top with more herbs and serve.

Tip: If you want to use bone-in, skin-on thighs or chicken breasts here, you can. Just add about 10 minutes or so cooking time for the bone-in thighs, and start checking the breasts 5 minutes sooner since they might need less time in the oven.

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