Monday, April 30, 2012

Stuffed Chicken Thighs Braised in Tomato Sauce

Stuffed Chicken Thighs Braised in Tomato Sauce

About six months into my first website, I attempted a stuffed chicken thigh recipe, however I wasn't satisfied with the results. It was wrapped in bacon and stuffed with bread crumbs. As I remember it, the stuffing tasted good, but the chicken meat was very bland. I didn't season the chicken because I expected the bacon to add flavor to the chicken as it cooked. Ironically, it was one of my most popular recipes.

The Challenge

Fix and elevate a concept I previously executed poorly.

The Source

This recipe was taken from


1 cup frozen (but thawed) or cooked spinach, squeezed dry
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs from day-old bread, preferably whole wheat
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fennel fronds, chopped
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
10 four-to-five ounce boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup fennel bulb, diced
1/4 cup shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt


1. Combine spinach and breadcrumbs in a medium bowl with the Parmesan, egg, fennel fronds, shallot, garlic, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt until well blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.

Chicken Stuffing

2. Place a chicken thigh smooth-side down on a work surface. Fill the thigh with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the stuffing, first filling the area (or pocket) left by the bone and placing the rest in the center of the thigh. Roll the thigh closed and secure with 2 pieces of kitchen string. Repeat with the remaining thighs and stuffing. (You may have leftover stuffing.) Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and salt.

Stuffing and Tying the Chicken

3. Heat oil in a large, heavy, high-sided skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add half the thighs, seam-side down. Cook, turning 2 or 3 times, until brown on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes total. Transfer to a clean plate and repeat with the remaining thighs.

4. Add onion, carrot, fennel, shallots, and garlic to the pan. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits; bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to boil until the liquid is reduced by about half, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and the chicken thighs. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered and turning the thighs occasionally, until cooked through and tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

Mirepoix Browning
Deglazed with White Wine
Braising Fluid Simmering

5. Remove the thighs with a slotted spoon; tent with foil to keep warm. Simmer the sauce further to thicken it, if desired, or thin with a little broth or water if it's too thick. Season with 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve the chicken with the sauce.


1. To make fresh breadcrumbs, tear bread into pieces and process in a food processor until coarse crumbs form. One slice of bread makes about 1/2 cup fresh crumbs.


From a flavor standpoint, this dish far exceeded the oringinal one two years ago. However, I felt like I was coming full circle because the preparation work was a marathon. With experience, I've become better organized and dishes that used to take me three hours when I first started out can now be completed in one-third to half the time.

This was not the case here. I used the leftover spinach from the gnocchi recipe, however the only Parmesan I had was in wedge form so I hand grated it, and my food processor got a workout chopping the fennel fronds, carrots, shallots, and garlic plus grinding the breadcrumbs. I also hand stripped the leaves from the thyme sprigs and hand diced the fennel bulb. In addition, tying the stuffed thighs was a project by itself. It was a very good dish, but I don't think I'll repeat it often due to the amount of work involved.


  1. Looks so tasty!
    I love chicken thighs because they have so much flavor and don't dry out.

  2. Thanks for visiting my site! I must agree with you regarding chicken thighs. Normally, I use bone-in pieces for even more flavor but not in this case. Check out Anne Burrell's recipe I published last month, but I also love Michael Chiarello's chicken cacciatore recipe.

  3. Gorgeous dish!I love all the flavors going in these!!Wonderful :)


Feedback is always welcomed. If you're going to be critical, be constructive. In other words, be nice.