Preparing Lemon Basil Chicken Thighs is very straightforward. Like many great dishes, it comes down to good ingredients and execution of technique. Lemon is always a fresh taste, basil makes anything livelier and I use chicken thighs for a richer taste. Execute the technique correctly and voila! you have a great dish.
Notes on Ingredients
Any chicken parts will work for this dish, but I think the thighs are best. Actually, I prefer bone-in thighs with skin. In today’s quick world, boned and skinless seem to dominate the market, but the extra effort here is worthwhile producing more flavor and texture.
Please note that the recipe calls for six chicken thighs. The number you should cook depends on the size of the pan you have. You want the thighs spaced well apart so they sear well, but not too far apart so as to create a nice sauce. I have a large Le Creuset Braiser that works well with 6 thighs. Use what you have and adjust the recipe size as needed.
This recipe is far better with fresh basil. Use dried only if you must.
I keep a supply of homemade vegetable stock on hand in the freezer. An ice cube maker allows you to freeze small qualities for use. I make the stock from scraps and stems that I save in the freezer until I have a chance to make a large batch. I find this stock to be less cloudy and to have a better taste than store-bought stock.
If you don’t don’t normally keep vegetable stock, consider keeping juices from a pot of green beans or similar in the freezer. If needed, this recipe will work perfectly well with water instead of stock.
Notes on Technique
The first step and maybe most important is to sear the chicken. Start with the skin side cooking until the skin is nice and light brown and much of the fat is released. Then flip the chicken to sear the bottom side. Again, until light brown. At this point, you will likely have more fat in the pan than you want. You can quickly skim this off before proceeding.
Flour and Sauce
The recipe uses a bit of flour to thicken the nice lemony basil sauce. The flour is added to the chicken after the initial browning and allowed to cook a bit. This removes the pasty taste from the flour and prepares the cells of the flour to absorb the liquid and make a sauce.
- 6 (bone-in) chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons Olive Oil, approximate
- 2 Tablespoons flour, approximate
- ½ cup vegetable stock (chicken stock or even water will do)
- Juice of 1-2 medium lemons
- One bunch of basil leaves (approx. 1 cup). larger leaves torn
- Salt and Pepper
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Salt and pepper chicken well. Leave the skin on, but you can trim away some of the skin to reduce the fat in the dish if desired.
- In a large braiser or similar oven-proof pan heat the olive oil and then brown the chicken skin side down for approximately 5 minutes or until well browned.
- Turn the chicken over to brown the other side, again for about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat slightly so as to not burn the flour in the next step.
- Spoon out excess fat.
- Sprinkle about half the flour on the chicken. Flip and brown for about a minute more. Add the other half of the flour to the chicken and flip again. -- browning the underside some more. (This will take away the pasty taste of the flour. and prepare it for thickening.)
- Add the stock, scrape the browned bits to dissolve into the stock, and allow the sauce to thicken slightly. (Important: Only slightly thicken at this point.)
- Spread the basil on the chicken and into the stock. Add the lemon juice and stir in.
- Cover and roast in 375°F oven for 20 minutes. Remove the cover, and check the cooking of the chicken and the thickening of the stock. Cook for a few more minutes uncovered, if you need to thicken the stock.
- If the sauce has not thickened in a few minutes, remove from oven, place chicken on serving plates, and slowly reduce remaining stock over low heat.