This technique for roasting chicken thighs in their own marinade was inspired by everyone’s favorite Silver Palate recipe, Chicken Marbella. I took the concept and did a few different flavor profiles with it many years ago for Fine Cooking magazine, and I recently revisited those recipes. This updated one features a robust Thai-flavored marinade of coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, peanut butter, cilantro, garlic and chopped lemongrass if you have it (fresh ginger will do fine, too). There’s a little prep involved in making the marinade (and you’ll want to do it at least six hours ahead or overnight), but the cooking is easy.

The best part is the pan sauce that the marinade creates while the chicken is roasting. When you take the chicken out of the oven, you transfer the pieces to a warm plate to hold. Then you tilt the pan and spoon off the fat that will have separated and risen to the top of the marinade (this is easy). What is left are pan drippings and the cooked marinade. A couple tablespoons of warm water, a wooden spoon, and you’ve got an incredible pan sauce that tastes like Thai peanut sauce. 

The best baking vessel for this kind of dish is Pyrex (or Anchor Hocking) glass, as it provides a bit of insulation. A 3-quart shallow baking dish (about 9 x 13 inches) is perfect. The chicken thighs fit closely, leaving just the right amount of room for the juices to cook down (but not burn – which might happen if you used a much larger pan). 

Susie Middleton

Serves 3

For the marinade:

  • 5 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, well stirred
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 3 small limes)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup sliced and finely chopped fresh lemongrass (remove the tough outer leaves before chopping) or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger (or use a combination)
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter


For the chicken:

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 ½ pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped peanuts
  • Fresh cilantro, sprigs or chopped leaves

Make the marinade:

1. Use the back of a chef’s knife to crush the garlic cloves. Sprinkle them with a little salt and mince finely until almost the consistency of a paste. (Alternatively you can pulse the garlic in a small food processor with a bit of salt until finely minced.) Set the garlic aside.

2. In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass and/or ginger, chopped cilantro, brown sugar, and peanut butter. Whisk until thoroughly combined.

Marinate the chicken:

1. Use a small sharp knife to poke three or four slits in both sides of each piece of chicken to help the marinade penetrate.

2. Put the chicken in a large nonreactive bowl and toss with the 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Distribute the garlic paste among the six pieces of chicken, rub both sides with a little. Add the marinade to the bowl and toss so that each piece of chicken is well coated. Arrange the chicken skin-side up in the bowl and cover very tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least six hours and up to 24 hours.

Roast the chicken:

1. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and transfer the chicken and all the marinade (scraping the bowl) into a 3-quart shallow Pyrex baking dish. Adjust so that the chicken is all skin-side-up and the pieces are spaced evenly. Let the chicken sit for at least 20 to 30 minutes and up to an hour before you plan to cook it to bring it closer to room temperature for the most even cooking.

2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.   

3. Put the chicken in the oven to roast. As it cooks, the marinade will bubble and begin to reduce. After 30 minutes, baste the chicken with the pan juices to help brown the skin and keep the chicken moist. The sides of the pan will be browning, which is good. (If for some reason the sides or the pan juices on the bottom look like they’re beginning to burn at any time, just add a tablespoon of water to the pan and wash the sides down a bit with the basting brush.)

4. Continue cooking for another 25 minutes, basting every 5 or 10 minutes, for a total cooking time of about 55 minutes. The chicken is done when it turns a deep golden brown and the pan juices have reduced somewhat (the sides of the pan will be brown and the fat will have separated from the other marinade ingredients). 

Make the pan sauce:

1. Transfer the chicken pieces to a warm plate and tent with foil.

2. Hold one end of the roasting pan with a potholder and gently tilt the pan to let the fat run into one corner. With a large, shallow spoon, spoon off as much fat as possible but leave any savory juices and pan drippings behind (they will look somewhat clumpy). Add 2 tablespoons water to the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape off enough of the baked-on pan drippings from the sides and bottom of the pan to form a slightly thickened, deeply colored, rich-looking sauce. Stir well and taste the sauce — if it’s too intense, add a little more water; if it isn’t flavorful enough, keep scraping and stirring. Transfer the sauce from the pan to a serving vessel (a small Pyrex glass measure works fine).

3. Serve the chicken on a bed of grains or a rice pilaf. Spoon a couple tablespoons of sauce over each serving and garnish with the chopped peanuts and cilantro.