A dressed-up chicken thigh is the quickest, juiciest, most affordable and sustainable animal protein that is fit to serve to company. And even though I am a huge proponent of buying the whole chicken (with all its bones, skin, and parts), sometimes I need a meal to be easy and fast with uniform pieces of meat all at the ready. This dish is perfect for a dinner or as leftovers for lunch. There are only 8 minutes of prep and 50 minutes of cook time for both the chicken (30 min) and the onions or veggies (20 min).
Our spicy chicken thighs also give you a chance to really let two complementary spices come into the spotlight–Aleppo and Israeli za’atar. The za’atar provides an herbal earthiness while the Aleppo (which now, sadly, comes from Turkey instead of Syria) brings a crisp layered heat within its beautiful crystal-like pepper flake. Both are used liberally in this dish. They can be purchased at World Spice in Pike Place Market (more than half of their business is out-of state with mail orders). Ballard Market carries Aleppo but not the Israeli za’atar. Add a good dosing of salt flakes after the spices (I use Maldon) and you are set to bake. Rave reviews are sure to follow.
Turn oven to 425 degrees.
Line sheet pan with parchment–I used two sheets of parchment for this one to keep oil off of pan and speed cleanup. Don’t let your parchment overhang the sheet pan though, because at the higher temperature of this recipe it can seriously brown the edges.
Spread the chicken pieces out on the sheet pan, opening them up to lie flat. My package gave me 8 boneless thighs, but a few more would fit on the pan. Drizzle about an ⅛ of a cup of olive oil over the back of the chicken pieces. It will help the spices adhere to the flesh and it will provide the additional oil needed to toss the onions once the chicken has cooked.
Scoop a tablespoon of za’atar into the palm of your hand and then using your fingertips on the opposite hand sprinkle the spice evenly over the thighs. It will take a second tablespoon to cover all the thighs. Repeat the process with the 1 ½ tablespoons of Aleppo and the 1 tablespoon of Maldon salt flakes.
Place chicken oven and cook for 25 minutes. During this time slice your onions into long sections. If you are using another vegetable, prep it too, slicing into desired-size pieces. At 25 minutes, remove the sheet pan from oven and quickly turn the thigh pieces over and then back, spice side up again. This allows the oil on the parchment to coat the top of the thighs and provide a nice sheen and texture. Return to oven for another 5 minutes. Check for doneness at 30 minutes and place cooked chicken pieces on a plate to rest.
Mix sliced onions into the residual spicy oil on the parchment paper, making sure you coat all the sections. I do this with tongs. If you are using another vegetable add it now if the cooking time is similar (red pepper). Some vegetables like broccoli or broccolini may not need quite as much time to cook so add them after a few minutes and coat those vegetable with the oil, too. Cook vegetables for about 20 minutes until desired doneness.
Remove from oven and serve with chicken thighs. I “dust” the finished dish with about a teaspoon of additional Israeli za’atar and Aleppo. Place a pinch between your fingertips and hold the spice a good 12 inches above the plate to have the spices fall lightly and to avoid clumping.