PSA: Busy weeknight meals do not have to be boring! This dinner of chicken thighs with green olives and parsley-chive polenta comes together in under 30 minutes—and it's packed with Mediterranean flavor.
When my schedule seems extra chaotic, I default to the same basic meals over and over again: Stir-fry with rice. Pasta with red sauce. Green thing plus protein plus potatoes. And though there's nothing wrong with any of those options, sometimes I need to shake it up and try something different.
Here, herbed polenta adds some low-fat creaminess, bright flavor, and heft to a Mediterranean-inspired dish of chicken thighs and pimento-stuffed green olives. And the best part? The polenta (really just coarsely ground yellow cornmeal) can be cooked in 10-ish minutes!
Need dinner on the table ASAP? Follow these easy tips to shave off even more time:
- Use pre-shredded or grated cheese for the polenta, and buy a can of sliced green olives for the chicken. I like to shred and grate my own cheeses because packaged grated/shredded cheese can contain chemical anti-caking agents. But if you need to make dinner as quickly as possible, let someone else do the work! You can also find pre-sliced green olives in most grocery stores.
- Read the recipe before you start cooking. You'll notice that I write this in many of my recipe posts. That's because reading the recipe ahead of time really does prevent most cooking blunders. For instance, this recipe requires you to do multiple steps at the same time; if you don't read all the instructions before you get started, you might skip something by accident or need extra time to prep ingredients.
- Make sure you preheat your skillet. Chicken thighs cook pretty quickly on their own, as long as you lay them flat. But if you want them to cook in as little time as possible (and have a perfectly browned exterior), it's important to get your pan really hot before you start cooking. Grab your largest skillet or Dutch oven and place it over high heat for a few minutes. Then, drizzle the oil into the hot skillet and let that heat for another minute or two. When you lay the chicken thighs in the skillet, they should sizzle right away.
- Leave some fat on the chicken thighs. If you or someone you're cooking for has a heart condition or another health-related reason to cut down on fat, then you should probably get out those kitchen shears and trim off all of the visible fat on your chicken thighs. However, if you're short on time and generally healthy, it won't hurt to skip this step or only remove the biggest pieces of fat that you see. Or, even better, ask the butcher to trim off the fat at the grocery store!
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Quick Chicken with Green Olives and Herbed Polenta
- Saucepan or pot
- Large skillet or Dutch oven
- Wooden spoon or spatula
For the herbed polenta
- 3½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1½ cups polenta (a.k.a. yellow corn grits) or quick-cooking grits
- ½ cup packed fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup finely shredded Manchego, pecorino, or parmesan cheese
For the chicken
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1½ pounds)
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ teaspoons dried oregano or Italian seasoning
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup chicken broth or dry white wine
- 1 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped or sliced
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- First, start the grits. Pour the 3½ cups broth and 1 cup water into a medium saucepan or pot and place it over high heat.
- While the liquid heats up, prep the chicken. Use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to remove the visible fat from the chicken thighs. Place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and let it heat up for about 3 minutes. Place the thighs in a bowl, sprinkle with the salt, pepper, and oregano, and use your hands to massage the seasonings into the chicken. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil to the preheated skillet and let it heat up for another 1 to 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, when the broth and water come to a boil, add the salt and herbs, then gradually stir in the corn grits. (If you add the grits too fast, they will clump up.) When all the grits are stirred in, reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the grits are thick and creamy.
- As soon as the oil is very hot (it will easily swish around the skillet and you might see a wisp or two of smoke), lay the chicken thighs in the skillet in a single layer. It’s fine if the skillet is crowded; just make sure the chicken is laid out as flat as possible. Brown the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
- When the grits are finished cooking, stir in the 3 tablespoons of butter and the Manchego cheese. Taste and adjust with more salt and pepper as needed, then cover and let rest while you finish the chicken.
- After the chicken is browned on both sides, add the olives, ½ cup wine or chicken broth, capers, and lemon zest to the skillet. Stir to distribute everything evenly, then cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chicken registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Serve the chicken with the grits, and garnish with more chopped fresh parsley if desired.
Recipe inspired by this one by Rosemarie Pisano on the Taste of Home website.