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Jan 22, 2013
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Wine With...Roasted Chicken Thighs

There are many reasons why roast chicken is a perennial favorite, from the mouth-watering aromas that waft through the house all afternoon as the bird cooks, through the flavorful and nutritious stock that can be made from the leftover carcass. The compatibility of roast chicken with a wide range of wines is certainly an essential part of the appeal for many of us. But there are times when we need to scale back to a simpler variation on the theme: when we crave the same tasty results but lack the time for long roasting, for example, or we don’t want to fuss with carving a whole chicken or dealing with leftovers. What if we stuffed boneless chicken thighs with traditional poultry stuffing, we asked ourselves--would that yield the same satisfying flavors as a whole roast bird?

Our trial run convinced us that there is, indeed, much to be said in favor of an abridged version of roast chicken. While the results may not exactly replicate the full depth of flavor as an entire bird, the thighs and their stuffing were nonetheless mighty savory, and furthermore we were spared having to deal with the eternal issue of overcooked, dry breast meat. Best of all, the dense and delectable dark meat, boosted by sausage-enhanced stuffing, proved a remarkably appropriate partner for both red and white wines.

Roast Chicken Thighs

Serves 4-6

We used a simple bread and sausage dressing, but your favorite stuffing (cornbread, mushroom, rice or whatever) should be equally delicious.

Boneless thighs with skin on are ideal, but if the ubiquitous boneless-and-skinless are all you can find, they’ll work just fine as long as you baste them at least a couple of times during the roasting period.

Since the stuffed thighs tend to open up during cooking they need to be loosely held together before they go in the oven. Experienced cooks can effortlessly tie the little packets up with kitchen twine, but the rest of us will find that securing them with toothpicks is a quicker way to do it even though the results may not be as tidy. Use un-dyed toothpicks, and be sure to remove them before serving.

3 ½-4 pounds boneless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
½ onion minced (about half a cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon dried sage
½ pound sausage such as sweet Italian
1 cup bread crumbs such as Panko
red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
toothpicks or kitchen twine
½ cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 375°.
Season chicken with salt and pepper on all sides (in the best of all worlds you would do this the night before cooking them). Cook the onion in about one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat until they start to soften, then add the garlic and continue cooking until they are translucent. Add the sage and stir in the sausage. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sausage is cooked through. Stir in the bread crumbs, the red pepper flakes (if using) and parsley, and remove from heat.

Lay the chicken pieces out on a flat surface and open them up. Place a small spoonful of stuffing on each one and fold it up as neatly as possible, securing each one closed with twine or a toothpick or two (you may have a little stuffing left over).

Brush the top of each chicken packet with olive oil, and use the remaining oil to coat the bottom of a baking dish large enough to hold the chicken thighs in a single layer. After arranging the chicken in the baking dish, drizzle the white wine over them. Roast them for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are nicely browned and cooked through, basting once or twice as they cook.

* * *

This savory and satisfying dish works equally well with both red and white wines, so long as the whites aren’t too delicate and the reds too robust. We found that the sausage in the stuffing complements earthy or mineral-laden flavors particularly well, making this a dish that wants more than just fruit in the wine accompanying it.

Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Benotto, Monferrato (Italy) Nebbiolo “Nebiut” 2009

(Imported by Michael R Downey Selections)

$18

Beautifully balanced, with some of the almost haunting floral notes that characterize the finest Nebbiolo-based wines, this wine impressed most of all because of its sumptuous smoothness on the palate. This grape tends to yield wines with dusty, earthy undertones, but at its best manages to taste refined and elegant at the same time. That’s precisely the case here.

Paul Blanck, Alsace (France) Pinot Blanc 2011

(Imported by The Stacole Company)

$15

Fresh and lively, with a subtle minerality undergirding its more forward fruit flavors, this wine, made with a too often overlooked white grape, displayed both power and elegance. It had more than enough flavor to match the chicken and stuffing, but also added a refreshing lightness and bit of verve.


Evolúcio, Tokaj (Hungary) Furmint 2011

(Imported by Boutique Wine Collection)

$13

An excellent value, this completely dry Furmint tastes of crisp apples and pears enhanced by echoes of straw and even caraway. Though light in body, it fairly bursts with flavor, so in no sense is too delicate to work with the chicken.

Pecchenino, Dogliani (Italy) “Sàn Luigi” 2011

(Imported by Vias Imports)

$18

Made with Dolcetto grapes, this northern Italian beauty offers sweet red fruit tempered by tart, slightly herbal notes. Its finish lingers effortlessly for what seems like minutes, and the faint hint of bitter amaro-like power gives it enough muscle to stand up proudly to this particular dish.

Domaine Saint Gayan, Côtes du Rhône (France) 2010

(Imported by Europvin USA)

$17

A juicy red with plenty of peppery, dried herb secondary notes to add complexity and intrigue. Medium-weight on the palate and smooth through to the finish, this wine complemented the stuffing seamlessly.