We made a slight deviation from the original meal plan last night. Both the planned recipe (Barley Soup with Chicken and Pancetta) and the actual recipe (Stuffed Chicken Thighs, La Cucina Italiana, January/February 2014, page 27) are Italian. And both call for chicken thighs and pancetta. But you know, sometimes you just aren’t in the mood for soup. And sometimes you have more people for dinner than you anticipate. And they are teenage boys so you can’t very well serve them soup or they will be hungry in five minutes. You improvise. Maybe you turn three pages back in the magazine that you took out for dinner and hey, there’s something that looks tasty. It’s tough work, this kitchen gig.
Stuffed anything sounds pretty time consuming, but this is really a simple recipe. Start with boneless chicken thighs (or breasts – we did both). Make a little paste of finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley, and shallot.
This gets rolled into your boneless chicken, which is then topped with a bit of rosemary and pancetta (we used slightly less than the recipe called for on each roll up – one 4 or 6 ounce package from the grocery was enough for seven pieces of chicken). Once tied up, the chicken is cooked on the stove for 15 minutes, covered, in hot oil. While it cooks, you can chop your veggies for the next stage.
We doubled the recipe, using one large onion in the doubled recipe instead of two small. Next time, I would probably use half the onion, but definitely double the carrots and celery. I think parsnips would have been a good addition, also. After the chicken has cooked for 15 minutes covered, the vegetables are added to the pot with some nice white wine, and the whole caboodle is simmered for another 10-15 minutes. You can see from my photos that I should have used a much larger pan, and when I added the veggies, I was a bit worried that they would never cook down as instructed. They did. In the twelve minutes the recipe suggested.
While all this was happening, we cooked some of the sun-dried tomato stuffing with the veggies separately and added chickpeas for our vegetarian. I’m not sure it was the most satisfying meal (it definitely was not as good as the chicken), but I think if you added some veggie broth and a bit of seasoning, it could be much better. I also skimped on the wine a bit because I was a little short and didn’t want to open a new bottle. Deglazing the pan with the wine really helped the flavor of the chicken, so would be a good addition to the veggie version.
The last five minutes of cooking time is again covered. The vegetables and chicken were both perfectly cooked at this point. I did have some nice juice at the bottom of the pan to spoon over the chicken pieces. Overall, an excellent dinner and I think probably pretty close to the predicted time of 55 minutes.
I mentioned that we also served a salad of potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, and olives. We actually made this same salad a couple of weeks ago. This time, I felt like there wasn’t quite enough flavor. I think this was mostly due to the fact that it should not have been paired with this particular chicken recipe. I also think this salad is really dependent on the olives used. Splurge a little. Get some really good olives if you can find some. Raid the olive bar at Whole Foods if you are so lucky. Then make this salad. Serve it with scallops or fish. But unless you are feeding an army or serving it as your full meal, cut the recipe in half.