If I’m being honest I don’t love to drink apple cider (it’s a little too sweet for my tastes), but my wife and kids do, which is why I always try to keep a big jug of it in the fridge during the fall.
I do love to use apple cider in the fall, though! It’s great in sweet desserts like donut holes, but is also delicious in savory dishes like glazed salmon and slow cooker pulled pork, as well as today’s main event: Apple Cider Chicken Thighs!
These chicken thighs are a perfect all-in-one skillet dish, full of fall’s best flavors. Adults will love it even if they don’t love chicken thighs (my wife attests to this), and kids should eat it, too.
WHAT KIND OF CHICKEN THIGHS SHOULD I USE?
You can technically use any chicken part for this recipe, but you’ll get the best results if you use skin-on and bone-in cut chicken thighs. This cut is less likely to dry out, and the thighs will have a rich flavor after the braise. They’re also economical, easy to cook, and so delicious.
WHY USE APPLE CIDER AS THE COOKING LIQUID?
People don’t think to cook with apple cider much, but I highly recommend it. Apple cider is delicious paired with foods like sweet potatoes, and you often don’t need a lot of it to get the flavor.
The only thing to watch for is the cider’s sweetness. I like to mix the cider with some chicken stock to mellow it out.
A TRICK FOR CRISPY CHICKEN THIGHS
The trick to delicious chicken thighs? Sear them before simmering.
Start with a COLD cast iron skillet, add the chicken thighs skin-side down to the skillet, place the skillet over medium heat, then don’t touch the thighs for about 15 minutes. The fat will render out and the skin will get a golden crispy crust.
To keep the skin crispy later in the oven, make sure the thighs aren’t completely submerged in the liquid. They should only be half covered, so the skin is exposed.
MAKE IT A MEAL!
I like to serve these with a grain or pasta that can soak up all the juices. While the chicken thighs simmer, cook some white rice (on the stove or in a pressure cooker) or orzo and serve the thighs with that. The cooking liquid also reduces nicely to make a light pan sauce which you can spoon over the chicken before serving.
STORING AND REHEATING CHICKEN THIGHS
You might not have any leftovers, but if you do, no worries. The chicken thighs keep well in the fridge for 4-5 days. When you’re ready to reheat, microwave them for about 90 seconds on high. You will lose the delicious crispy skin in the microwave, but the chicken itself will still be super juicy and tender.
If you want to get some of the crispiness back, reheat the thighs in the oven until warmed through.
THE DAD ADD: LEFTOVER CHICKEN SALAD
This dish lends itself perfectly to a hearty leftover salad. Shred one of the chicken thighs and add it to some greens along with the leftover braised sweet potatoes. Spoon some olive oil and apple cider vinegar over top, then season with salt and pepper for a delicious and hearty lunch.
Want to kick it up another notch? Add goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds. YUM.
THE REPORT CARD
In this photo, you will see the true power of the older sibling.
There was zero (ZERO!) chance my younger child was going to eat this dish, but Bro took one for the team and dove into it. He tried a piece of chicken, tried the tiniest, littlest bite of sweet potato the world has ever seen, and shoveled in some rice. He did all of this while his sister stared at him intensely. After she was satisfied that we wouldn’t have to call emergency services, she waded into her own plate ever so slowly.
So, the verdict: this dish is kid-friendly! The flavors are slightly sweet and savory, and as long as you don’t overwhelm your kids with a huge thigh on their plate, they will be almost certainly into it.
MORE DELICIOUS WAYS TO COOK CHICKEN THIGHS
Apple Cider Chicken Thighs Recipe
- 4 or 5 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, diced (about 2 cups diced)
- 1/2 white onion, sliced thin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
- Cooked rice or orzo for serving (optional)
1 Preheat oven to 350˚F.
2 Sear the chicken thighs: Season the chicken thighs on both sides with kosher salt and pepper. Add chicken thighs skin-side down to a large, cold cast iron skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and let the thighs cook, untouched, for 15 minutes, until the skin is deeply golden and crispy.
3 Add the remaining ingredients: After the chicken thighs have cooked for 15 minutes, carefully flip them. Add the sweet potatoes, onion, apple cider, chicken stock, and fresh rosemary to the skillet. Stir gently to make sure ingredients are distributed evenly. The thighs should only be submerged halfway in the liquid so the skin stays crispy while baking.
4 Cook the chicken thighs in the oven: Transfer the skillet to the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender and the chicken is cooked through. (It should reach at least 165˚F in the thickest part.) It’s very hard to overcook chicken thighs in this environment, so don’t worry if they register much hotter than that.
5 Serve the chicken thighs: Divide the chicken thighs between four plates and add cooked rice or orzo to the side, which is great for soaking up the juices. Spoon sweet potatoes and onions on top.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. To reheat, microwave the thighs for about 90 seconds on high. To regain some of the crispiness, reheat the thighs in the oven until warmed through.
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