Pastured Chicken Thighs with Smoked Paprika Cream Sauce


A Bold, Smooth Sauce is a Perfect Match for Flavorful Chicken

Chicken thighs are one of my favorite cuts. They have a more intense flavor than chicken breast, and they are less prone to drying out. Because pastured chickens spend time pecking around in the grass, pastured chicken thighs have even more flavor, and a firmer, more robust texture that remains tender.

While there’s no wrong way to cook them, a great thing about chicken thighs is that their robust flavor stands up to a huge range of seasonings. Yes, they’re wonderful simply grilled, but they also shine when barbecued, or put in a stew, or even smoked. Here I’m pairing them with a quick, rich, smoked paprika-cream sauce.

Sauce 101

Like my recent recipe for pork shoulder steak, this is a pan sauce. That means you’re cooking the thighs in one pan, then removing them and using the same pan to quickly whisk up a delicious sauce. Because the pan is used to bake the thighs, it must be oven safe. Stainless steel or enameled cast iron is the ideal, but regular cast iron will do in a pinch.

As is always the case, homemade broth will give a slightly better result, but store bough stock or broth works fine in this recipe. If you go that route use the best you can find, and above all make sure it’s low sodium. Because the broth reduces significantly, any salt it contains will be concentrated. Take this too far and it can ruin the sauce.

After adding the cream be careful when heating the sauce. Though it’s fine to reduce it a bit at this point, it’s possible to overcook it. I prefer to simply make sure it’s piping hot, then serve.

Serving Ideas

While the cream sauce is rich, the chicken stock and smoked paprika mean it’s also plenty flavorful. Serve it with collard greens, asparagus, broccoli, or any other crunchy green vegetable. Rice, sweet potatoes, or any other starch would also be great, but this meal is filling enough that it doesn’t really need anything else to be satisfying.

Pastured Chicken Thighs with Smoked Paprika Cream Sauce

Flavorful chicken thighs in a creamy, smoky, velvety sauce.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken, sauce
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken thighs 2-3 pounds total
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock low-sodium if store bought. See note.
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°
    In an oven proof skillet, preferable stainless steel though cast iron will also work, heat butter over medium-high heat until it begins to foam. Place chicken thighs in the pan skin side down.
  • When the skin on the thighs has browned and started to crisp, about 5 minutes, though it will vary depending on heat and type of pan used, flip them over, then put the skillet into the oven. Bake until thighs reach an internal temperature of 175°, about 30-45 minutes.
  • Put thighs on a plate and cover loosely with foil. Place skillet back on the stove top over medium heat. Slowly add flour, whisking constantly, until smooth, then continuing to whisk, slowly add in broth. Bring to a boil and reduce, stirring regularly to prevent scorching, until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of gravy. Reduce heat to low, add cream and paprika, and cook just until hot.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste. When serving chicken thighs, pour sauce over each individually. You'll probably have a little extra sauce, which is fine, because it's also great on greens, rice, or whatever else your serving alongside the chicken.

Notes

•If using store bought broth, make sure it’s low sodium. The stock reduces significantly while cooking, which will concentrate the salt content. It’s easy to add a pinch at the end if the sauce isn’t salty enough, but there’s no way to salvage a too salty sauce.
•If you like, feel free to lightly salt the thighs up to a day ahead of time.
•My feeling is that a little smoked paprika goes a long way, but if you want a more intense flavor, feel free to double the amount or to sprinkle extra on top while serving.

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