If you love Costco, you've probably walked by the giant jars of marinated vegetables and thought "what do I do with a jar of sun dried tomatoes?" Besides eating them straight from the jar or making Mediterranean salad, I love using them with pasta recipes! I wanted to make use of tender artichoke hearts as well as sun dried tomato for a dish that was both creamy and chunky. In this dish you'll find sun dried tomato in both the vinaigrette and the chicken. The mustard and lemon brighten up the whole dish giving you an amazing umami flavor.
Preparing the Chicken
You can use any chicken that you would like, including bone-in or skin-on chicken breasts and boneless skinless chicken breasts. My personal preference is always for chicken thighs and I used bone-in and skin-on chicken because I like the crunch. This does create a few more steps to get the chicken ready to eat with the pasta. To make dinner faster, use a boneless skinless variety so you can chop and place right on top of the pasta.
Regardless of what kind of chicken you choose, make sure that you pat the chicken dry with paper towels. You want to remove all moisture so that you can get a golden crisp on the chicken. If you don't the water on the meat will turn to steam when it hits the hot pan and you'll be steaming your food rather than frying it.
Of course, pre-salt! Salting ahead of time allows for the salt to absorb into the meat and season from within. Ideally you'd want to salt the chicken 24 hours before you plan on cooking. At a minimum I would recommend 1 hour, but if you're pressed for time then 10 minutes should suffice. Make sure that you're getting the salt mainly under the skin. The salt will just sit on the surface of the skin and make it salty, but if you place it under it will absorb into the meat and maximize the flavor.
The Secret to Prefect Crispy Skin
Hands down, my favorite way to cook chicken is in a cast iron skillet. It's so versatile if you have the steps down! First, you sear the chicken in the pan, add your vegetables and sauce, and finish in the oven to make sure that you fully cook the meat without burning the skin. By starting on the stove you allow the maillard reaction to happen in the pan which brings a lot of flavor you won't get if you go straight to the oven. My personal favorite pan is a 11 ¾in cast iron skillet from Le Creuset. For larger parties that require more chicken, sear the chicken in a normal pan and transfer it to a baker's sheet and follow the remainder of the recipe instructions.
There are a few key points for perfect crispy skin. First, as mentioned, make sure that the chicken is dry before placing in the pan. Second, make sure that the pan is hot and you don't try and move the chicken before it is done. Cast iron will release the chicken when it's crispy enough. I usually find that 5 minutes per side over medium high heat does the trick. finally, when adding the sauce make sure that you pour it around the chicken and not over the top. Adding moisture to the top will make the skin soggy, which isn't what you want!
Making sure chicken is fully cooked can be a nerve-wracking thing. If you're a newer cook or like reassurance, invest in a thermometer with an alarm function. This dual purpose thermometer has the alarm function and is also an instant read! Win win. Basically, you just stick it in the thickest part of the biggest thigh and set the temp to 165 and it will beep when it's reach that temperature. Fool proof!
Tips for the Best Vinaigrette
Once you've got the chicken in the oven, it's time to make the vinaigrette. The best part about this is that you can throw it all together and blend it up fairly quickly. Sometimes I start with this step, but doing that wastes time. Trust me, do as I say not as I do! One thing you're going to want to make sure that you do is taste and adjust! Once it's mixed it with the pasta it is harder to change the flavor.
My personal preference for making sauces is to use a food processor, but a blender will work just fine too. When you blend up the vinaigrette ingredients, the olive oil emulsifies with the sun dried tomato to create a more creamy consistency with a strong tomato flavor. Don't be afraid to add more if the sundried tomato flavor isn't as strong as you'd like. When you taste your sauce make sure that it also has enough acidity and enough salt. If you feel like it's not as strong of a flavor as you'd like, add a touch more both. The acidity in this recipe comes from both the mustard and the lemon. The brightness brings up the dish and gives your mouth more to explore.
Optional Ingredient Swaps
The best part of cast iron chicken is that you can make it taste like anything. If you're wanting to stick with the Mediterranean theme, then just think of other flavors you would taste in Italy. Sub basil for the oregano in the vinaigrette, or just add some fresh basil. Add ½ cup of half and half or heavy cream to the chicken dish when you've removed it from the oven for a creamier sauce. Sometimes I like to add ½ cup of parmesan cheese to the pasta with the vinaigrette. If you need to reduce the carbs, use spaghetti squash or zoodles. You could add capers or use white wine instead of chicken broth in the pan before baking. Use the ingredients that you like and it's sure to come out great.
Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Pasta with Crispy Chicken Thighs
- Oven safe skillet
- Food processor, blender or immersion blender
- 1 pound pasta of choice
Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette
- ½ cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 whole shallots, peeled and cut in half
- 3 cloves garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- ½ cup olive oil (I usually use light tasting)
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- 4-6 whole chicken thighs, bone in skin on (can use chicken breasts, or boneless skinless chicken)
- oregano, to taste
- salt, to taste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 pound frozen artichoke hearts (can also used marinated jarred artichoke hearts)
- ½ cup sun dried tomatoes, in oil
- 1 whole onion, sliced
- ½ cup chicken broth (or white wine)
- 3 oz pine nuts, toasted
Prepare Chicken and Boil Pasta
- Preheat oven to 425. Pat chicken thighs dry and place on a cutting board. Sprinkle liberally with salt and oregano on both sides. Let rest for at least 10 minutes. If resting for longer than 1 hour, cover and return to the fridge.
- Cook pasta in salted water according to directions. Drain and set aside.
Prepare Crispy Chicken Skillet
- Heat oil in pan over medium high heat. Place chicken skin skid down and fry for 5 minutes or until crispy. Flip and fry another 5 minutes. Remove from pan.
- Place artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, and onion in the pan. Stir to coat and disperse. Add chicken stock or broth.
- Return chicken to the pan, skin side up, and nestle among vegetables. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165.
Make Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette
- While the chicken is baking... In a food processor or blender, pulse sun dried tomatoes, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil, oregano and salt until creamy. Toss with cooked pasta.
- Plate pasta with one chicken thigh, vegetables and sauce from pan. Top with toasted pin nuts and serve.
If you make this recipe, be sure to tag @thatzestlife in your photo! I would love to see what you made!
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