If you were to take a look around my fridge on any given day you would probably be surprised by the number of condiments that occupy the shelves. There are a few half finished jars of jam, horseradish, chutneys, bits of vinaigrette that haven’t quite been used up yet, and an assortment of odds and ends stuck in the back that I’ve probably forgotten about. And there is also mustard, and several different varieties at that. I’ve even been known to make my own.
I at least come by my obsession honestly. My parents’ fridge was always full of various mustards; still is. Last time I visited there was some wasabi mustard and yellow mustard and Dijon, both with and without seeds. There were also a few specialty varieties that my mom had found and which we made sure to put to good use.
If you’ve only been using mustard as a small addition to your sandwiches, you’ve been missing out. The spicy tang is just the thing to perk up a salad dressing or a stew or a sweet marinade. There’s hot and sweet and mild and yellow – yes, yellow mustard is a flavor unto itself. That’s what this dish is really; it’s a celebration of mustard. Chicken is just the vehicle.
Because let’s be honest, chicken thighs, especially the boneless and skinless variety, are a little boring. There’s a whole industry devoted to making things – marinades and spice mixes – to perk up your chicken. So let’s do it: some mustard to wake up your tongue and some roasted lemon to keep it sweet. Use your favorite mustard, or a mix of mustards, or that interesting looking one you’ve seen at the store but never known how to use it. Use it here. “Does this have mayo in it?,” was my roommate’s first question and the answer is no although I could see why she thinks so. The sauce that results from the chicken, mustard, and lemon is thick and rich and pretty amazing as a gravy. That jar of mustard won’t have to languish at the back of the fridge any more.
Mustard and Lemon Roast Chicken
Makes 4 servings
1.5 lbs skinless and boneless thighs*
1/4 cup mustard (hot, honey, Dijon, wholegrain, a mix? I’d recommend not using only yellow but you could always combine it with something else to mellow it a little)
1/4 cup oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely chopped
1 leek, white and light green parts only, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces**
Juice of 1 lemon
1 (additional) lemon, cut into thin slices
Combine the mustard, oil, salt, pepper, garlic, leeks, and juice of one lemon in a small bowl or in a plastic zip-top bag and mix it around. Add the chicken thighs and let it marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.***
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425F. In a large baking dish, about 9 by 13, pour out the chicken and marinade and mix it up with the remaining lemon slices. Make sure the chicken pieces are in a single layer and not on top of one another or they won’t cook evenly. Roast the dish for about 30 minutes until the lemon slices on top are a little browned and the chicken is done. You can test that by cutting into it to check or by taking its temperature – should be about 165. Serve it hot whether that means immediately or after reheating. Any leftovers will keep for up to a week and could be made into an amazing chicken salad with just a little bit of extra mayo.
*With a wet marinade like this, the chicken skin would never crisp up in the oven and I’m not really a fan of the soft fatty texture you get when the skin doesn’t crisp. Ideally there would be such a thing as bone-in skinless thighs since roasting with the bone adds some extra flavor to the meat, but alas, I haven’t found it. You could of course buy bone-in skin-on chicken thighs and remove the skin yourself but I’m kind of lazy so I just let the mustard make up for any lost flavor.
**Leeks are really dirty vegetables so I find it easier to chop and then wash them to get out all the dirt. And don’t forget to rinse your cutting board too.
***The mustard and lemon will both break down the proteins in the raw chicken a little bit while marinating and at some point it will start to affect the texture of the chicken. That point starts around 8-10 hours so don’t leave it longer than that.