Every morning when I walk into the restaurant, when I see Sal, our daytime chef at the Osteria, the first thing I do is ask, “Sal, what’s for lunch?” If Sal says chicken, he means these oven-roasted chicken thighs. It’s not a fancy preparation, but if you’re in the mood for a super-moist, very flavorful, comforting chicken dish, it doesn’t get any better. My friend and Mozza’s (unofficial) chief security officer, Michael Krikorian, plans his day around what time Sal’s chicken is going to come out of the oven so he can stop by the restaurant for lunch. These chicken thighs couldn’t be easier to make — just season them, throw them into the oven, and they cook while you put the rest of the meal together. The only catch is that you have to plan ahead. Sal’s trick for achieving a crispy skin is to dry the skin out first, which he does by leaving the chicken in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered.
I serve the chicken with the side dishes that I brought to Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s house one year, as well as Tomatillo Salsa, whose citrusy flavor is the perfect complement to the chicken. It’s such a simple, home-style preparation that, depending on the season and what you like, you could serve this with any vegetables or salads in this book. The serving size of this recipe depends entirely on how much each guest eats, but don’t worry, it’s an easy recipe to expand for a larger number of guests.
Pat the chicken thighs dry with paper towels and lay them, skin side up, in a single layer on a baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the refrigerator, uncovered, and refrigerate the chicken overnight or for at least 8 hours. Take the chicken thighs out of the refrigerator 45 minutes before you're ready to cook them, to bring them to room temperature.2.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 500°F.3.
Trim and discard the root end of the onion and cut the onion in half root to tip. Cut each half in half again root to tip so the onion is quartered. Separate the layers of the onion, stack 2 or 3 layers at a time on top of one another, and slice 1⁄4 inch thick lengthwise.4.
Spread the onion slices and garlic cloves in a single layer in the center of a large baking sheet to create a bed large enough to nestle the chicken thighs in a single layer. Lay the lemon slices on top of the onion and garlic and scatter the thyme sprigs and rosemary sprigs on top of the lemon.5.
Prepare a double bed of paper towels on a flat work surface to put the chicken on. Remove the chicken thighs from their baking sheet and put them, skin side down, on the paper towels. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper over the bone side of the chicken thighs. Turn the chicken thighs and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper on the skin side of the chicken. Transfer the chicken thighs from the paper towels to the baking sheet, nestling them, skin side up, snugly next to one another on the bed of onions and seasonings. Once you've laid down all the chicken thighs, push the onions inward with your hands so they are not spread out wider than the thighs. If the chicken skins appear wet, pat the thighs dry with paper towels and season them again.6.
Roast the chicken for 40 to 50 minutes, until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced with a small knife. Turn the oven to the broiler setting and move the chicken so it is closest to the broiler. Broil the chicken for about 5 minutes, until the skin is deep golden and crispy.7.
To serve, move the chicken thighs off the bed of seasonings and fish out and discard the lemon slices. Spoon the thyme, rosemary, onions, and garlic onto a large round or rectangular serving platter. Using tongs, lift the chicken thighs off the baking sheet and lay them on the bed of onions and garlic. Serve with tongs.