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.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Homemade Potato Chips

Homemade Potato Chips

It has been said that we, as Americans, would eat much less junk food if we made it ourselves, so...

The Challenge

Making a snack that is often taken for granted and can easily be bought at any local supermarket at home.

The Source

I originally saw this on an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.


1 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large baking potatoes, such as Idaho, peeled and shaved into thin slices with a veggie peeler or mandoline
Peanut or veggie oil, for frying


1. In a large container, combine the vinegar, kosher salt, sugar and 2 cups water. Whisk or shake to combine. Toss in the potatoes and refrigerate for 24 hours.

2. In a large wide pot, heat the oil for deep frying to 350° Fahrehneit. Remove the potatoes from the vinegar solution and gently pat dry to remove any excess water.

3. Set up a sheet tray lined with paper towels to land the chips on when they come out of the oil.

4. Working in batches, fry the potatoes until they are brown and crispy. Be careful not to overcrowd the oil, overcrowding will result in greasy limp chips rather than crispy crunchy ones.

5. When the chips come out of the oil, land them on the paper towel setup and give them a sprinkey dink of salt. Let cool and then store them in an airtight container.


From a technical standpoint, yes. The chips were crunchy and light. From a taste standpoint, no. Per instructions, I left the potatoes in the brine a full twenty four hours, however my wife thought the chips were too salty. My toddler daughter sure ate them up. If I was to repeat this recipe again, I wouldn't leave the potatoes on the brine so long to prevent this from occuring in the future.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Almond Purée

Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Almond Purée

I have decided to post here less frequently (and as the budget allows) but, especially after my last post, make each dish I publish here count. In other words, quality will trump quantity here. However, it occurred to me recently that I haven't posted a while.

I actually prepared this dish a couple of months ago, but held it back because the preparation wasn't very challenging. After preparing Chef Chiarello's chicken cacciatore dish a few times after I initially wrote about it last year, I must agree with him when he notes that the thigh meat is ideal for braising because they are one of the moistest part of the chicken.

So, hopefully this will hold your attention until I can prepare more challenging food. Might I suggest it for a weeknight dinner to impress some last minute guests?

The Source

Page 150 to 151 of Cook Like A Rock Star by Anne Burrell with Suzanne Lenzer

Mise En Place

Extra-virgin olive oil
8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt
2 onions, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 pounds assorted mushrooms (such as shitake, oyster, or cremini) trimmed, cleaned and sliced
1 cup dry white wine
4 to 6 cups chicken stock
1 thyme bundle, tied with butcher's twine
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds, toasted
Fresh chives, chopped (for garnish)


1. Coat a large wide straight-sided pan with olive oil and bring to high heat. Season the chicken generously with salt and add it, skin side down, to the pan-you should hear a big sizzle. If you don't, remove the chicken and wait. When you put the chicken in the pan, the first thing it wants to do is stick there and the first thing you want to do is move it. Resist the urge. It will unstick itself when it's ready. When the skin is brown and crispy, 5 to 7 minutes, turn the chicken over and brown the other side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve.

2. Ditch the fat and lower the heat. Add another splash of olive oil to the pan and add the onions. Season with salt and red pepper and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until the onions are soft and aromatic, then add the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add the mushrooms and season with salt, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until soft and aromatic. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Return the chicken to the pan, pour in enough stock to almost cover the chicken, and add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Add a little more stock if the liquid level gets low.

5. While the chicken cooks, purée the almonds in a food processor. Once they are ground, drizzle a little olive oil while the machine is running to make a loose paste. Season with salt and reserve.

6. When the chicken has simmered for 30 minutes, remove it from the pan and reserve; remove the bay leaves and thyme bundle and discard. Stir the almond purée into the sauce and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer to thicken the sauce if needed. Serve the chicken draped with the sauce and garnished with chives.

I followed the instructions exactly, but ultimately found it over seasoned because salt was added to the dish in steps 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6.

Again, thanks for checking in and I have more crazy foodie stunts planned for the near future.

Update: March 18, 2013

This is an updated presentation of the dish. Have I improved my photography?