On cool nights in Brooklyn, I loved laying in bed with the windows open. I would drift to sleep and sometimes be startled out of it by the conversational mumbles of the late dinner crowd coming out of the restaurants and planning their next moves, the nightly din-to-shrill crescendo of the bar out back, and the wall of taxis laying on their horns as they came down Havemeyer on weekend nights at twelve thirty, and again at two. When the loudest sounds ebbed, I’d hear bits of conversation, laughing, music floating by, and would sit in bed and love that I could hear all this life happening from right there in my bedroom. And if the moon was also shining in the window, as it did this time of year, well, what else could you want?
The Virginia nights offer a different symphony. Crickets mostly, but also the occasional titter of peepers or the croak of a frog. Leaves rustle and the occasional car snakes down our street. The world and its worries feel distant, and it’s pretty perfect. Especially now that the chilly nights have set in. I’ve been sleeping like a cadaver; the kind of sleep where you don’t move once all night and then your neck hurts for days but you don’t care because you’ve just banked the best eight hours of sleep you’ve had in months.
I’m really glad that fall is here. As it turns out, I needed it. And after a morning spent testing recipes and finally braising and roasting and stewing, I turned to a stash of tomatoes and chicken thighs and wondered what to make for dinner. The answer, as clear and bright as these Septemebr days, was to turn on the oven and bake it all up. So, here it is. A simple, flavorful family dinner with beautifully concentrated tomato, tender chicken, lots of hardneck garlic, and a few kale ribbons for good measure. Serve it all atop a bowl of buttery grits, and then ladle on the rich pan sauce with abandon.
Before we head to the recipe, we’re also sharing a few more family-friendly recipes over on Babble. Head over and check out our recipes for vegetable scramble breakfast tacos and fresh ideas for a healthy family taco night.
Baked Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes and Garlic
serves 4 – 5
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 pounds chicken thighs (here, they were boneless and skinless, but go with whatever you’ve got)
4 large cloves hardneck garlic, smashed, peeled, and chopped
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups tomatoes, halved if cherry, quartered if larger
3 – 4 large kale leaves, cut into thin ribbons
6 sprigs thyme
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Rub 1 teaspoon of sea salt all over the chicken.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil, and once it’s hot, add the chicken skin-side down. Sear for 3 minutes on each side, just until it has browned a bit. Add the garlic when there’s 1 minute of cook time left. Remove from heat.
In the same skillet, carefully arrange the kale ribbons around the pan, tucking them under the chicken, and then tuck the tomatoes all over so they surround the chicken thighs. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of sea salt and the pepper. Set pan in the oven and bake, basting the chicken occasionally, for 50 – 60 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Place a generous dollop of buttery grits in a bowl, add the chicken and tomatoes, and finish with several spoonfuls of sauce and a sprig of thyme.