By Alison Roman

New York Times News Service

Skillet Chicken With White Beans and Caramelized Lemon

Servings: 4

Preparation time: 45 minutes

1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed

1 shallot, peeled and cut into thin wedges

Kosher salt and black pepper

2 1/2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or breasts (about 4 to 6)

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 (15-ounce) can small white beans (such as Great Northern, navy or cannellini) or chickpeas

1 bunch kale, ribs removed, leaves torn into large pieces

Flaky sea salt

Olive oil, for drizzling

1. Toss lemon slices and shallots together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper; set aside. (This will lightly pickle the shallot and soften the lemon while you cook the chicken.)

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add chicken, skin-side down. Using kitchen tongs or a spatula, press the chicken evenly into the skillet so it makes good contact with the hot surface (which will promote browning). Cook, resisting the urge to check too frequently, until the skin is deeply golden brown (think of the color of a well-baked croissant), 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. At this stage, most of the fat should be rendered and the skin should be crispy. Flip and continue to cook until pieces are cooked through, another 7 to 10 minutes.

3. Using kitchen tongs, transfer chicken to a plate to rest, leaving all the fat behind. Add lemon and shallot to the chicken fat, standing back if you need because it will sizzle. Cook, swirling the skillet, until the lemon has started to caramelize and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. (It’ll smell like a mix of lemonade and caramel.)

4. Add the beans to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the beans have started to brown a bit and soak up all of that caramelized lemon chicken fat, 3 to 4 minutes. Working in batches, add kale and toss to wilt, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go.

5. Return the chicken to the skillet, along with any juices that have collected on the plate, and cook for a minute or two, just so everything gets to know each other in there.

6. Divide the chicken, beans and kale between plates, making sure to top each serving with a few lemon slices. Sprinkle with flaky salt and a final few turns of pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.

I am not a patient cook. I use lettuces without washing them because it takes too long, peek into the oven more times than I should when I’m roasting a chicken, and slice into cakes before they’re properly cooled, even when I know better.

But if there is something I am going to take my sweet time with, it’s rendering chicken fat, because that stuff is worth its weight in gold.

And yes, there are lots of fats for cooking — with so many to choose from, who can play favorites? Well, I can play favorites, and chicken fat is my favorite.

It’s not just the deeply savory flavor you get from rendered chicken fat, although that is reason enough to make the effort. The idea that you can extract your own cooking fat from an ingredient as simple as a chicken thigh is something I take great pleasure in; to me, it’s one of the finest DIY moments in cooking. As a bonus, you end up with excellent, crispy-skinned chicken — a true luxury.

Thighs will consistently yield the greatest amount of fat, but bone-in, skin-on breasts will also give you plenty to work with. Maybe it’s counterintuitive, but the chicken must not be seared hot and fast, as you would cook a steak or skin-on fish fillet. Rendering fat takes time, and the fat is what we want, so time we must give it. This means medium heat for a longer period, but your patience will be rewarded with an unscorched pool of impossibly flavorful fat at the bottom of your skillet that nothing from a bottle can compete with.

All this extra time on the stove also suggests that you will not have to finish your chicken in the oven — that it can and should be cooked entirely on the stovetop.

And did I mention there is crispy skin? There is crispy skin.

While I would drink this fat directly from a spoon, that’s not why we are here. We are here to cook with this golden-brown gift, which imparts its chicken-y flavor to any ingredient we choose to grace its presence with. Here, that means tangy slices of lemon, which sizzle and caramelize in the fat, followed by a simple can of white beans to soak it all up.

While this dish is an excellent place to start, it is infinitely riffable and adaptable, depending on the season and availability of pantry ingredients.

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