Looking to dazzle your guests during the holidays? I’ve got the perfect “fancy” dish for you. And I promise, no advanced culinary skills required.
I’ve adapted this from a recipe that first appeared in Gourmet magazine. It boasts a secret ingredient, what the French call a “farce,” but we call it forcemeat.
A forcemeat is a mixture of well-seasoned meat, poultry, fish or vegetables, that is finely chopped or ground, then cooked and served alone or used as a stuffing. Some fat usually is added to ensure the forcemeat has a smooth texture. Forcemeat is the base of many charcuterie products, including pates, terrines and sausages.
But in this recipe, it doesn’t just add delicious flavor.
It also insulates the chicken from the intensity of the heat in the oven, making it almost impossible for the meat to dry out.
You may wonder whether all the stuffing will fit under the chicken’s skin, or whether the excess will ooze out when you saute the meat. Don’t worry. Chicken skin is remarkably elastic. And the forcemeat firms right up during cooking and won’t slide out.
Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Thighs
Serves 6. Recipe is by Sarah Moulton.
5 ozs. baby spinach
2 lbs. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (8 thighs)
2 tbls. crushed ice
1⁄3 cup low-fat sour cream
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1⁄8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Ground black pepper
1 tbl. extra-virgin olive oil.
1. In a large skillet over medium heat, wilt the spinach until completely reduced. Let cool until easily handled, then squeeze out moisture from the spinach and give it a fine chop. You should have about 1⁄3 cup. Set aside.
2. Using a paring knife, remove the skin and bone from 2 of the chicken thighs. Place the thigh meat in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the ice and process until absorbed. Add the sour cream and pulse again until well mixed. Add the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, fennel seeds, lemon zest, nutmeg and 1⁄8 teaspoon of black pepper. Pulse, scraping down the sides, until well mixed. Set aside.
3. Arrange the remaining thighs on a cutting board, skin side up. Carefully pull back the skin, leaving it attached on one end. Divide the ground chicken and spinach mixture evenly between the 6 thighs, spreading it evenly over the meat. Stretch the skin back over the filling on each thigh. Arrange the stuffed thighs on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
4. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 400 F.
5. In a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high, heat oil. Season chicken skin lightly with salt and pepper, then add chicken to the skillet, skin side down. Cook until the skin is golden brown. Use tongs to turn the thighs skin side up. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for 25 minutes, or until the thighs reach 160 F.
6. Remove from the oven and cover with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a serving plate. Spoon any juices from the skillet over the thighs just before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories: 200 calories from fat (65 percent of total calories); 23 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 22 g protein; 370 mg sodium.