Recipe Review

Melissa Clark’s Leftover Chicken Thigh Soup Deserves a Spot in Your Comfort Food Rotation

published Dec 14, 2021
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Melissa Clark is a treasure. From her simple but incredibly tasty New York Times recipes to her well thought-out cookbooks, she has our back. Her dishes are no-fuss but never boring, and she’s so good at making things completely doable at home.

Melissa’s ethos and style were on full display during her recent appearance on the Today Show where she shared two recipes for the “Make-Ahead Monday” segment. The first recipe is a roasted chicken thigh dish that only requires a handful of ingredients, but produces flavorful, juicy results. She serves the lemon, garlic, and herb chicken with a cucumber yogurt sauce similar to raita or tzatziki. Add a veggie or two and you’ve got a meal.

While demonstrating the recipe, Mellisa shared some handy tips for roasting chicken that caught my eye:

  • Any kind of chicken will work. This roasting technique will work with any chicken parts, whether they’re bone-in chicken breasts, legs, or skin-on thighs. Just adjust the cook time accordingly.
  • Roast your lemon. Melissa roasts the chicken with slices of lemon. The lemon not only adds flavor to the chicken as it cooks, but it also mellows out in the oven, becoming “almost sweet.” Squeeze it over the finished chicken for a burst of flavor.
  • Season early. She recommends seasoning the chicken as the oven preheats so that it has time to penetrate the meat. Even 15 minutes is long enough to make a difference.
  • Drizzle with oil. Melissa drizzled her chicken thighs with oil just before roasting, which she says gives the chicken delicious crispy edges.
  • Season late. She also advises sprinkling again with salt and pepper just before cooking. Since the seasoning will sit right on the surface, it’ll be the first thing you taste.

In the spirit of make-ahead, she then uses leftover shredded chicken thighs to make an entirely new meal: Spicy Chicken and Orzo Soup. The hearty dish comes together in just over 30 minutes — lightning-fast for a soup. Cumin, red pepper flakes, and chili flakes season the broth, while orzo pasta and spinach add body and texture and make it a complete meal.

Because the chicken is so flavorful on its own, it makes an especially outstanding soup. Melissa recommends using especially good chicken stock for the best results and notes you can swap the orzo for your favorite pasta shape. Squeeze some fresh lemon on top to perk it up.

I love a recipe that reuses leftovers because it is a truly creative way to make two top-notch dishes that won’t leave you bored. Melissa is a pro at moves like this, and I’ll definitely be trying out her simple roast chicken recipe and enjoying the soup a day or two later. It is chicken soup season, after all!