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One of my favorite savory dishes on this site is the orange chicken – it’s a homemade version of one of my go-to Chinese take-out meals.  My only gripe about that recipe is that there’s some frying involved, which causes me to shy away from making it very often.  Sure, the frying can be done in the oven, making it less messy (for me, anyway) than the stove top alternative, but it’s still not exactly healthy.

When I set out to try this recipe for orange-honey glazed chicken thighs, I didn’t realize it would turn out to be a sort of substitute, a shortcut version of the orange chicken dish.  I was simply trying to find a new way to utilize chicken thighs, which as I’ve mentioned before, we really enjoy around here.  No matter how delicious they are, there are only so many times you can eat a simple roasted chicken thigh before you go looking for variations :)  The recipe here is pretty straightforward – the chicken thighs are pan-seared until the skin is crisp and browned then finished in the oven along with the orange-honey sauce.  Once the chicken is cooked through, it is set aside to rest while the orange-honey sauce is reduced on the stove-top until thick and syrupy.

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The result just might be one of my new favorite ways to enjoy chicken thighs.  Crispy chicken skin is a major weakness of mine and the skin on these chicken thighs can’t be beat – it’s perfectly browned and super crispy, even when coated with the sauce.  As the title suggests, orange and honey are definitely the most prominent flavors in the sauce, but it’s not as sweet as you might think thanks to the tangy mustard and vinegar.  I also loved that the sauce clung to the chicken instead of just running off as I’ve found to be the case way too with other recipes.  The only thing I’ll do differently next time I make this dish is to serve it with rice to soak up the extra sauce.

Orange-Honey Glazed Chicken Thighs
from Cook’s Illustrated

1 1/2 cups orange juice plus an additional 2 tablespoons
1/3 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 6 ounces each), trimmed of excess fat, with three diagonal slashes through the skin
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium shallot, minced

Preheat oven to 375 F.  In a large measuring cup whisk together 1 1/2 cups orange juice, corn syrup, honey, mustard, vinegar, red pepper, 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Add the flour to a wide, shallow dish.  Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper then coat both sides of the chicken with the flour.  Pat off excess flour.

Add the oil to an ovenproof 12-inch skillet.  Set the pan over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the chicken thighs skin-side down; cook until the skin is well browned and most of the fat has rendered, about 8-14 minutes.  Flip the chicken and cook until the second side is lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Pour off all but 1 teaspoon of fat from pan.  Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the orange juice mixture to the pan and increase the heat to high.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is syrupy and has reduced to 1 cup – a heatproof spatula should leave a slight trail when dragged through the glaze, about 6 to 10 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and tilt so the glaze pools in the corner of the pan.  One at a time, dip the chicken thighs in the glaze, coating both sides evenly and then place the thighs skin side up in the skillet.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through – it should register 175 F on an instant read thermometer, about 20 to 25 minutes (my thighs were smaller and only needed 10 minutes in the oven so keep an eye out).  Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Set the skillet back on the stove top (remember, the handle will be VERY hot!) over high heat and cook the glaze, stirring constantly, until it is thick and syrupy – a heatproof spatula will leave a wide trail when dragged through the glaze, about 1 minute.  Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of orange juice and whisk to combine.  Drizzle each chicken thigh with some of the glaze before serving.  (The remaining glaze can be passed at the table.)