Skillet Crispy Chicken Thighs with Chickpeas and Harissa

Succulent chicken thighs and chickpeas are braised in a harissa-spiced tomato sauce for an easy one-skillet dinner.

It's my first post of the year, and I'm excited to be partnering with Smart & Final to share this super easy one-pan Skillet Crispy Chicken Thighs with Garbanzos that's bursting with spicy harissa flavor!


Like most Americans, I eat a lot of chicken, from chicken poached in a bit of salted water to whole boiled chicken with dried red chiles and aromatics, then shredding it to stuff into tortillas for tacos or enchiladas. Grilled, stir-fried, sautéed with butter and herbs, or drowned in a spicy mole sauce, there's always something delicious to be made with this versatile, often affordable protein. 

Speaking of which, I'm always looking for ways to save some money when shopping for groceries. On my recent twice-a-month trip to my local Smart & Final to stock up our pantry and freezer, the first thing I picked up was a value pack of bone-in, skin-on First Street Chicken Thighs. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them quite yet, but as I continued to shop, ideas bounced around the back of my mind. 


While looking for canned beans to restock our pantry, I saw Sun Harvest Organic Garbanzo Beans, which reminded me of a harissa chicken recipe I'd seen years ago that I'd filed away for future experimenting. I picked up additional ingredients that I knew I didn't have at home to create my version of the dish as best as I could remember it. These items included Sun Harvest Organic Tomato Paste, bell pepper, onion, chicken broth for deglazing, and Italian parsley for garnish. 

I added garlic, First Street Coarse Sea Salt, and First Street Coarse Ground Black Pepper from my pantry, as well as my favorite harissa sauce and a fresh lemon from our tree. 

If you haven't worked with it before, harissa is a North African condiment (Tunisian, to be exact, though many bordering countries have their versions of it, too) made with chiles, onions, garlic, olive oil, and spices. The levels of heat in harissa vary significantly depending on brand and preparation (dry spice blend, canned paste, paste in a tube, or a jarred sauce). So I suggest that you taste your harissa before you start, or be conservative when adding it to recipes as you can always add more. I've written about harissa many times before and have several recipes here that use this North African condiment, so feel free to browse the archives for more ideas.

This one-skillet dish is a hit in my home. The harissa broth is so good, I've made it several more times using different vegetables for simple vegetarian meals. It's really quite versatile and adaptable. You can use it to braise almost anything, so feel free to experiment!

How to make Skillet Crispy Chicken Thighs with Garbanzos and Harissa  

To eat more healthfully regularly, I almost always buy skinless chicken. However, one of this dish's hallmarks is the super crispy skin, so don't skip it. When chicken skin meets a screaming hot cast-iron skillet, a magical transformation happens. Crisp, crunchy, airy, and full of flavor, savory pan-seared chicken skin is near the top of my list of favorite bites just under my dad's freshly cooked pork chicharrones. 


I heated my heavy 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Skin-on thighs have plenty of fat, so they don't need any help from added oil. Just add the chicken to the dry, hot skillet. Hearing the skin sizzle the moment that the first thigh meets the hot pan is immensely gratifying. 


I worked in batches to avoid lowering the pan's temperature, cooking only four thighs at a time. What makes good, crisp chicken skin is thoroughly rendering out the fact, so I let the pan and heat do all the work and didn't touch the thighs for a full 6 minutes before lifting one thigh to check the color. Once they were golden, after about another 2 minutes of cooking, I flipped the thighs and cooked them for another 5 minutes before swapping them out for the next batch.


If you've rendered the thighs correctly, you're going to have a lot of chicken fat (schmaltz) leftover. I want to suggest that you don't toss it because it adds a lot of flavor to foods cooked with it. Instead, strain it and save it for skillet potatoes or even to use as the fat in your next batch of biscuits or flour tortillas. 


Once I strained out the fat, I added a tablespoon of it to the same skillet set over medium-low heat. When the fat started to shimmer, I added the onions and cooked them, stirring almost continuously, until just turning golden. Then I tossed in the red bell pepper and cooked for just a minute to heat through.



The tomato paste and pressed garlic came next. To get the most out of the tomato paste and give the dish depth, I cooked the paste, stirring the entire time, until it started to darken. Cooking the paste until it changes color is something I do almost every time I cook with tomato paste. It makes a big difference. 


The garbanzo beans hit the pan next. I drained the beans but didn't rinse them as I wanted some of their salted brine to help flavor the sauce. 

I deglazed the pan with First Street Chicken Broth, stirring to bring up any dark bits stuck to the skillet. Next, I added two heaping tablespoons of my favorite harissa sauce that I always have on hand. Harissa takes this dish over the top. Like, seriously, another level entirely. 

At this point, you need to taste the sauce and add more salt if needed (I didn't) or add more harissa if you want it spicier.  My harissa is spicy for my tastebuds, so two tablespoons were enough to give my sauce plenty of heat. 


I returned the chicken to the pan, skin side up, nestling it between the garbanzos. Depending on how large the thighs are, this might take a bit of maneuvering to get them all to fit. I had to overlap a few slightly but did my best to keep as much skin exposed as possible. You don't want the skin to get wet and have all the work of crisping it go to waste. 


At this point, the skillet went into a 425-degree oven to roast the thighs until done. Now, a note about temperature. Chicken is safe to eat once it reaches 165-degrees. However, I prefer to cook dark meat to 180 degrees because I feel this gives it more time for all the connective tissues to break down, resulting in more succulent meat. It took about 25 minutes for the thighs to reach this temperature. 


Besides finishing the rendering of the fat in the skin, roasting at a high temperature also transforms the garbanzos. The beans soften, absorbing the harissa and the tomato paste's umami while still retaining their overall structure. I could eat a bowl of just the beans cooked in the harissa broth and call it a day. But, adding that chicken to the party? Oh, my goodness! I can't get enough of this dish. As embarrassing as it is to mention, I couldn't wait for the chicken to cool down and burnt my fingers, peeling away the skin to take that first glorious bite. 

I wasn't disappointed. 


Skillet Crispy Chicken Thighs with Garbanzos and Harissa

If you don't have harissa, substitute it with you're favorite chili paste such as sambal oelek, gochujang, or even Sriracha. Save the chicken fat and use as you would butter or oil. My version of this recipe is inspired by this one

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 First Street* chicken thighs, bone-in, and skin-on
1½ teaspoons First Street Coarse Sea Salt
1 teaspoon First Street Coarse Black Pepper
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3 fat cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons Sun Harvest* Organic Tomato Paste
2 (15-ounce) cans Sun Harvest Organic Garbanzos, drained, not rinsed
2 cups First Street Chicken Broth
2 tablespoons harissa paste, or to taste
¼ bunch Italian parsley, chopped
4 lemon wedges, for serving

Directions

Remove chicken thighs from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Rinse, pat dry and arrange on a work surface skin-side up. Combine the salt and pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle half of it evenly over the chicken; set aside to come to room temperature.

When ready to begin cooking, heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until smoking, then add four thighs, skin-side down to the pan. Once the chicken is down, don't move it; sear until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Flip the chicken and sprinkle half the reserved salt and pepper mixture evenly over the thighs and cook another 5 minutes. Remove to a platter and repeat with the second batch. 

Preheat the oven to 425° F.

Strain the chicken fat into a glass jar. Add back 1 tablespoon of the fat to the skillet. Add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Drop in the peppers and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add the garlic and the tomato paste, cook, stirring continuously, until the tomato paste darkens and caramelizes, about 3 minutes. Toss in the garbanzos, pour in the chicken broth, stir in the harissa and simmer for 5 minutes. Nestle the chicken thighs into the pan, skin side up, overlapping as little as possible and avoiding the liquid. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 180° (or 165° minimum). 

To serve, divide the chicken between four (preferably, lipped) plates or shallow bowls. Stir the parsley into the chickpeas and divide the beans between the bowls. Squeeze the lemon wedge over individual plates.
 
*First Street and Sun Harvest are Smart & Final brands.

Disclaimer: I occasionally take on sponsorships that allow me to continue developing and sharing new recipes with you. Smart & Final sponsored the groceries for this post; I received no other compensation. All opinions, photographs, and recipe instructions are, as always, my own. 

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