Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stuffed Grilled Chicken Thighs
over Greens and Strawberries

While much of the eastern half of the country (USA) is blanketed with snow, spring has sprung with a vengeance in California and has been screaming "Grilling Weather"!!!  That spring fever caused me to recreate an old favorite recipe of mine, stuffed chicken thighs. In this recipe, I stuff the thighs with Fontina cheese matchsticks and a fresh herb mixture to bring gentle fresh garden flavors to the chicken.  I served this over a bed of baby greens and strawberries, drizzled with a rich balsamic vinaigrette. 

Here's my starting line-up:
12 pc boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 pints fresh strawberries, sliced
4 cups fresh mixed baby greens
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3 tablespoons candied walnuts 
Fontina cheese, cut into 12 one inch by 1/4 inch sticks
1 bundle fresh Flat-leaf Italian Parsley, 1/2 cup finely chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon (good splash) Garlic Mirin
4 tablespoons + of extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil
salt and pepper
non-stick spray
poultry seasoning
6 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, stems stripped, leaves finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
*Herbs de Provence

In a small bowl, mix the garlic, shallot, rosemary and sage with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper, and set aside. 

 Slice the Fontina cheese into one inch by 1/4 inch sticks, twelve, and refrigerate.

Grind the fennel seed and, in a small bowl, mix with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper each, one teaspoon poultry seasoning and *Herbs de Provence. Set aside a teaspoon of the seasoning mixture.  Unwrap, lay out and season each of the twelve chicken thighs with the seasonings mix, both sides.  

Have set out 24 toothpicks. You will use them to pin the stuffed thighs together. To save on calories and sodium content, I did not wrap them in prosciutto or bacon, as I have in the past.  

Fire up the grill or light the charcoal about twenty minutes before grilling time.  Arrange the coals to have a hot side and cooler side. 

On a cutting board with a paring knife, pit and slice the strawberries place in a bowl and refrigerate.  Meanwhile, wash and dry the 4 cups of mixed baby greens and refrigerate. 

In a small bowl, add a pinch of the garlic, shallot, chicken seasoning, the Garlic Mirin, the evoo or grape seed oil, some of the fresh, finely chopped parsley and the balsamic vinegar. Whisk together and set aside to allow the flavors to marry. 

Lay out the chicken thighs smooth side down.  On the other side, cut a shallow slice into the center of the thigh, but not all the way through.  You will place the Fontina stick into this shallow groove.  Spoon about a teaspoon of the fresh herb mixture, roll the thigh and pin it together tightly using two toothpicks.  Three, if you need to. 


Spray the grill with non-stick spray.  Place the grill over the charcoals and allow the grill plate to heat up.   Place the chicken on the hot side of the grill smooth side down first. Allow about six minutes to grill on the hot side, both sides.  Try lifting one of the thighs with tongs.  When the chicken is ready to release, it should release easily.  After eight minutes, you may need to slightly help the thigh up to turn over before it burns.  Allow the toothpick side to grill eight minutes, then move all of the thighs to cooler side.  Cover and allow the grill another six minutes per side.

Plate one or two of the larger thighs.  If the juices seeping from it are clear, the thighs ought to be done.  Remove the thighs when done, cover with foil, and set them aside in the kitchen to rest. 

Meanwhile, plate the mixed baby greens, place the strawberries around the edges of the serving platter and drizzle with a a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Sprinkle the dried cranberries and candied walnuts over the greens.  Add the chicken to the top of the greens and drizzle the rest of the vinaigrette over the chicken thighs.  Sprinkle the remaining parsley atop the thighs and sprinkle shaved Parmesan cheese over the platter.  

You are now ready to serve!  A visual essay of the plated meal follows. Enjoy, People!