Recipe Review

Ina Garten’s Simple-yet-Decadent Chicken Thighs Will Bring Romance Back into Your Kitchen

published Feb 9, 2022
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chicken thigs in a pan garnished
Credit: Thao Thai

There’s no doubt that Ina Garten, our lady of kitchen sorcery and shiny, chestnut-colored bobs, is a force (who just celebrated her 74th birthday, no less!). But truly, there’s no one I’d rather be than Jeffrey Garten, Ina’s beloved husband, and recipient of her gorgeous, deceptively simple meals. He coasts into their farmhouse kitchen in a cozy cashmere sweater, eyes alight with adoration for his wife — as they should be — and gets presented with a plate that could have come straight from a restaurant kitchen, only it’s blanketed in Ina’s radiant love. She puts an arm around him as he takes a bite, the light from the windows streaming in around them. Talk about #relationshipgoals. 

I’ve been married for 12 years now, and my husband and I have a young child who prefers to run through her entire collection of toys rather than settling down for dinner. The last time my eyes lit in adoration was when my husband offered to let me nap instead of supervising a playdate for the afternoon. So you could say that the days of luxuriating over meals are scarce in this season of our life. But this year feels different. We’ve all been cooped up for so long, and something about the gloomy winter days and the drag of the pandemic has unearthed a craving for magic within my chilly heart. We’ve all been through so much. This Valentine’s Day, I want to capture some of the old ease, the richness of days full of promise. So, as I do, I return to the kitchen for some of that magic.

We’ve never been the couple to go out on Valentine’s Day; usually, on this holiday, we cook at home and eat together once our daughter is settled for the evening. I dug up my favorite Barefoot Contessa recipes to find the ever-delicious chicken thighs with creamy mustard sauce recipe. In this dish, crispy chicken thighs get bathed in a creamy, onion-rich sauce, made tangy with accents of mustard. Then the whole mixture is finished with a shower of fresh parsley to cut through all that decadence. The dish looks (and tastes) so complex, but really only takes about half an hour to make. Served alongside some potatoes and a crisp, green salad, this meal delivers some solid romance. It’s funny to say it, but something about the chicken thighs feels almost hedonistic; the fat, combined with the dark meat, hints at things a little out-of-the-ordinary — seductive, even. Magic, if you will. 

I don’t know if Ina (in my mind, we’re on a first-name basis) has made this chicken dish for Jeffrey — chances are, she has, sometime during their 50-something years together. But I know that I will be making this for my husband this Valentine’s Day, with a glass of dry white wine, and as much radiance as I can summon in an era of extremely quiet joys. 

Credit: Thao Thai

5 Tips for Making Ina Garten’s Chicken Thighs with Creamy Mustard Sauce

  1. Halve the recipe. It makes a lot, so if you’re cooking for two, as I was, you can easily reduce ingredients in half. Or, happily enjoy leftovers for the next few days!
  2. Try a cast iron skillet. This gives the chicken thighs a nice sear. You can also cook in batches if you need to, although it makes more sense to divide the recipe if you can’t fit all the thighs into one pan. (I had to freeze one lonely thigh that couldn’t quite squeeze in with its compatriots.) 
  3. Don’t skip the browning of the onions. The caramelized onion makes this sauce. It gives it sweetness that dances perfectly with the bitter edge of the mustard. Be sure to scrape up the browned bits with that white wine!
  4. Serve with a lemon wedge. This was such a delightfully rich recipe, but if you need it, a wedge of lemon can cut through the creaminess and add a nice, acidic tang to the dish. 
  5. If you don’t have crème fraîche, substitute with sour cream. I know, it’s not exactly the same. Crème fraîche has a dense fat content that’s truly inimitable. But in the spirit of ease — no one wants to be harried on Valentine’s Day — allow yourself to shop at only one store for this recipe. It’ll still be a showstopper, I promise.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.