AMY BONCHUK / FOR THE SUN
Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Sage Pesto
This week was a refreshing change from the sweltering heat wave that dominated the forecast. Recent rains allowed me to move off the field and back into the house to work on renovations and food ideas.
So between coats of paint and lacquer, I went out to the garden and considered playing with my bounty of fresh herbs. In my playfulness, I considered the great versatility of pesto. You can use any herb really and it made me wonder … even sage?
I had some chicken legs that needed some attention and I really wanted to incorporate garden freshness with roasted crispiness. Nothing beats a great roast chicken, but to infuse it with garden fresh vegetables and herbs … pure awesomeness!!!
So I deboned the chicken legs, stuffed them with a sage and rye stuffing then basted them with sage pesto and roasted them. While any bread will work for the stuffing, Manitoba rye really holds up well and adds another layer of flavour.
I love my garden right now: the corn grows a foot every day; I can cut herbs and they grow back within a few days; I can make an amazingly fresh salad in minutes from everything green at my feet. I even spied a few baby cucumbers that won’t be safe for very long. While I love living in Manitoba, where the weather always keeps you guessing, I do wish we had a longer gardening season. Cause you really can’t beat the bounty of homegrown veggies.
So while I can’t have a longer growing season, I can promote the awesome foodie advantages to growing your own ingredients. Pesto is delicious, but it does require quite a bit of herbs to obtain a worthwhile quantity of it. So growing your own herbs and showcasing it as pesto is an economical way to maximize the flavours of our short-lived Manitoba gardens.
» Amy Bonchuk writes a column every two weeks for the Brandon Sun.
Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Sage Pesto
• 8 chicken thighs, remove the thigh bone
• 2 pieces of rye bread cubed small
• 3 tbsp butter, Reserve 1 tbsp for the end of cooking
• 1 small onion diced fine
• 1 stalk of celery diced fine
• 2 tbsp of sage minced
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced fine
• 1/4 cup of white wine or chicken stock
• Salt and pepper to taste
In a sautee pan, heat the butter, once sizzling add the onions and the celery. Cook until the onions start to get some color. Add the garlic and season. Cook for 2 minutes then add the wine/stock toss in the bread and thoroughly mix. Finish with the remaining butter. Allow to cool thoroughly in the fridge.
• 1 cup of loosely packed fresh sage, parsley, thyme, rosemary and oregano
• 3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled
• 1/4 cup of lightly toasted pine nuts
• 1 whole lemon zested
• 1 tsp cracked pepper
• 1 tsp kosher salt
• 3/4 to 1 cup of Extra virgin olive oil, enough to create a smooth pesto
Toast pine nuts in a heavy bottomed skillet on med-high heat. Toss until lightly golden brown. Remove immediately.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside
Preheat oven to 400 F
Cleaning the chicken legs:
Gently peel back the skin from the back, keeping it intact; this will be what keeps the stuffed package all together. Remove any large pieces of fat. Cut the meat around the upper thigh bone next to the back. Gently scrap the meat down the thigh toward the lower leg until the joint is exposed. Sever the joint with a knife or just flex the leg backward to snap the joint. Remove the back and thigh bone. If you want to get extra French fancy, you can French the leg bone; cut the knuckle off of the lower leg and then scrape the meat and skin backward, cleaning the bone by scraping the meat toward the thigh with a knife. This is a classical French technique that is not necessary but does look deadly for the pictures.
Do not throw the trimmings away. You can freeze them for soup another day or combine the with some onions, celery, and carrots, cover with water and simmer for 3-4 hours for a great soup or stock to save for another meal.
With the thigh bone removed place about 2 tbsp of cooled stuffing into the newly created thighbone cavity. Pack the stuffing securely to keep its form then wrap the excess skin over the stuffing creating a neatly wrapped parcel. Place on a roasting tray by propping the leg up, with the skin folds down so the weight of the leg keeps skin secured and stuffing inside. Don’t crowd the pieces; air flow must be able to circulate around the pieces to crisp the skin.
Roast for 30 mins or until the internal temperature is 165 F.
If you have a convection oven, use it, the blower will increase the crispiness of the skin. Just adjust your cooking time as the chicken should be done sooner.
These chicken legs are great made ahead then frozen. Just ensure that the stuffing is thoroughly chilled before stuffing the legs, and also ensure that they are chilled quickly then frozen. Use the same method for roasting just roast for 10-15 minutes longer and check for doneness using a meat thermometer.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 21, 2012