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Oven Baked Cast Iron Chicken Thighs with Gremolata

The star of this oven-baked cast iron chicken thighs recipe with gremolata is, hands down, the gremolata.  Briny buttery olives are the base you'll build the gremolata sauce around.  If you're bored with the ordinary chicken recipe, the gremolata puts the "extra" into this delicious dinner your whole family will love. 

close up overhead shot of chicken in cast iron pan with orange slices

First up, let's talk about the chicken.

No need to be choosy about what type of chicken you use -  chicken legs, chicken breast, or even a whole chicken, will work.  You'll need to adjust the cooking time, though, depending on what type of chicken you use. Chicken breast will cook much faster than bone-in chicken thighs or a whole roasting chicken.  For flavor, skin-on chicken thighs will give you the best flavor.  

Once you've picked what type of chicken you're cooking, the next step is the marinade.  

The chicken gets dunked in a marinade made of orange juice, oregano (for high quality, well sourced spices I absolutely love Spicewalla and Curio Spice), garlic, orange slices, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Why marinate it? The reason is you'll infuse the chicken with a ton of flavor.  I know you might be in a hurry to get dinner on the table ASAP, but don't skimp the marinating step.  It really does make a difference in the flavor.  This isn't to say the chicken won't be delicious if you don't marinate it, but it will be MORE delicious if you do.   

Since we're all about building flavor, the first cooking step is to brown your chicken on the stove first.  

The not-so-secret secret to preventing your chicken from sticking to the pan is to let it get nice and golden brown.  Once it's cooked on the bottom it will easily lift off from the pan.  Don't force it.  If the chicken doesn't easily lift from the pan when you flip it, that means it's not ready to be flipped yet.  

overhead shot of chicken cooking in skillet

In your skillet, place chicken over medium-high heat with the skin side down, so the fat renders with the flavors of the marinade which will create even more flavor.  How many times will I say flavor in this post?  Lol.....many many times, but building flavor in a dish is incredibly important because we all want our food to taste good, right?  Having dimensions of flavor, not just one note (like a dish that's only spicy, or only sweet) keeps bringing us back for bite after bite.

Another tip about cooking chicken - don't crowd your skillet.  Only put as many pieces that fit with plenty of room around them.  In my cast iron skillet, depending on the size of the thighs, I can usually cook 3-4 at a time.  If you're cooking in batches, have a sheet pan nearby so you have somewhere to put the cooked chicken. 

Now, for a brief word about the gremolata.

Gremolata ingredients usually include lemon zest, garlic, and parsley.  I switched things up (because recipes should be inspirations and jumping-off points to go in whatever direction sounds good!) and added briny green olives, spicy red chiles, and orange zest.

overhead of halved oranges on cutting board

Why do I recommend green olives? Personally, black olives don't give enough flavor to the sauce.  My dad would whole heartedly disagree.  He's a huge fan of black olives, especially on his tacos.  So, if you're like my dad and  love them, then, by all means, go ahead and use them!

Other stars of the gremolata are: garlic and a red chili which add some heat, parsley and oregano that bring a freshness to the party, and orange and lemon juice add sweetness and acid.

It's an incredibly easy sauce to make and should take you less than 10 minutes.  

EXTRA TIPS:

TIP 1

The gremolata can be made a day, or two, ahead of time.  This will allow all the flavors to meld together and makes for an even MORE flavor packed gremolata.  Plus, this will save you time because you'll have one step already out of the way and done.  

TIP 2:

For a quick weeknight meal break this recipe down in steps: make the gremolata on day 1, marinate chicken on day 2, and cook chicken on day 3.  When you break up the steps and do some prep work ahead of time, this flavorful dish can be ready in 45 minutes or less (depending on the chicken cook time). 

TIP 3:

 If you like an extra garlicky gremolata, add 1-2 more garlic cloves

TIP 4:

When you've plated the chicken and spooned some gremolata over the top, garnish with fresh parsley.  

TIP 5:

For a restaurant-worthy extra flourish of flavor, sprinkle with a pinch of salt (preferably Maldon or other large flakey salt). 

OTHER TASTY CHICKEN DISHES YOU MIGHT LIKE!

Easy Chicken Parmesan Recipe with Tomato Confit

Harissa Chicken

Crispy, Crunchy, Sweet and Spicy Chicken

Proscuitto Wrapped Chicken with Crispy Sage

Overhead shot of chicken in a cast iron skillet topped with orange slices

Orange Oregano Chicken with Gremolata

Briny salty herbaceous gremolata tops chicken thighs flavored with a citrus marinade -- this chicken dinner is the definition of a winner!
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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 12 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
  • 1 bunch of oregano, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Juice of 2 oranges, plus finely grated zest of 1
  • 2 small oranges (I love using blood oranges), cut into thin slices
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Flakey sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • a small pinch of granulated sugar
  • GREMOLATA
  • 7 ounces green olives (like Castelvetrano), or Greek olive mix, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red chili, seeded and finely diced
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 sprigs of parsley, leaves only, coarsely chopped
  • 2 sprigs of oregano, leaves only, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  • Thanks so much for popping by!! I hope you LOVE this recipe! If you have any questions, I've given loads of tips up above. If you have more questions, leave a comment below. Happy Cooking!
  • Prep the chicken: With a sharp knife, pierce the underside of each chicken thigh. In a small bowl mix together all the ingredients for the marinade: oregano, garlic, orange juice and zest, 1/4 cup olive oil and pepper. Place all the chicken thighs in a large ziplock bag. Be sure you can seal the top. Depending on the size of the thighs, you may need to divide them up between 2 ziplock bags. Pour the marinade over the chicken. If using 2 ziplock bags, pour 1/2 the marinade in one bag, and half in the other. Seal the bags. Be sure they are VERY well sealed, so the marinade doesn't leak out. Massage the outside of the bag (or each bag), to distribute the marinade over all the pieces of chicken. Place the bag(s) in a shallow dish, and store in fridge.
  • Marinate the chicken for a few hours, or, even better, overnight. At minimum, marinate for at least 1 hour.

Make the gremolata:

  • In small food processor, combine the olives, garlic, chili, zest, parsley and oregano. Pulse until they are finely chopped. Then add the rest of the ingredients, and whiz together a few times to combine. Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator.

When you're ready to eat:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat remaining oil in a cast iron pan over medium high heat. If you don't have a cast iron pan, use an oven proof skillet. Take the chicken out of the fridge, gently shake off excess marinade, and place in the pan. Space out the chicken, so they brown evenly and are in a single layer. You will probably need to cook them in batches. Brown the chicken on each side, about 5-6 minutes. Once each batch is browned on both sides, remove from pan, and place on a platter.
  • When all the chicken is cooked, add all the chicken and any accumulated juices, back into the pan. They will fit snugly, and that's perfectly ok! Scatter with a few pinches of sea salt, place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
  • Remove chicken from oven, and with tongs, carefully lift up some of the chicken and lay half the orange slices underneath some of the pieces. Place the rest of the orange slices on top of the chicken, sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of granulate sugar, and roast for 20 minutes. Check to be sure the internal chicken temperature is 165 which means the chicken is done.
  • Scatter the gremolata over the top, and serve the chicken family style, straight from the pan.
Have you made this recipe?I'd love to know! Leave a comment or recipe rating and tag me @amenuforyou on social media!

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