I don't often buy chicken thighs with skin on, or bone in for that matter, but I had been wanting to bake some with flavours stuffed under the skin, and feta cheese crumbled on top. My vision was crispy skin, moist chicken meat with lots of flavour, feta cheese that was crisp and melting at the same time.
I did have some things to use up, however, that clashed with my idea...caramelized onions, half a red pepper, some zucchini, a tiny bit of diced artichoke hearts. After a bit of thought this is what I came up with. The chicken thighs retained their crispy skin, but because they baked on top of the ragout they maintained their moisture, and it added another layer of flavours to the meat.
Turn the oven on to 350F.
Start by making a rough paste to push under the skin of the thighs. Combine:
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon pinenuts, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Divide the paste between:
8 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
Gently lift the skin and push the paste underneath. Place the skin back down.
Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Using a large skillet, that can be placed directly into the oven, heat a bit of olive oil until very hot.
Carefully add the chicken thighs, skin side down and allow the skin to brown and crisp. Carefully turn the chicken over and brown the other side.
Remove from the pan and set aside. Drain the excess fat from the pan.
Keep the pan on the heat, but turn it down to medium. Add the vegetables:
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup zucchini, diced
1 medium onion, caramelized
Cook until the vegetables start to colour and soften.
1 x 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes and juice
1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts
Bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pan. This is where all of the flavour is!
Turn the heat down to simmer. Stir in:
1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed
Add the browned chicken thighs back to the pan, resting them on top of the ragout, and making sure that the crispy skin is not covered by the liquid.
Place the whole pan into the oven, and bake until the chicken is fully cooked, about an hour and a half.
Remove the pan from the oven, and turn the broiler on.
Crumble feta cheese over the top of the ragout and chicken.
Place back into the oven.
Broil until the feta cheese becomes golden and crisp on the edges, and soft in the middle.
The chicken skin will also crisp up and get a bit more golden.
Remove from the oven.
To serve, place some ragout in the bottom of a shallow bowl, and the gently place the chicken thighs on top, making sure that each portion receives some of the feta cheese. I added some warm pita bread to soak up the sauce.
- By crisping the skin before baking the chicken, and keeping it exposed and not covered by the liquid, it retained it's crispy, crunchy texture. The paste that was stuffed underneath the skin added flavour to the chicken meat and the skin.
- That being said, this can also be made using skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Omit the pinenuts from the paste, rub it into the chicken thighs and brown them, before adding them back to the ragout. Serve garnished with toasted pinenuts of you wish.
- I added the feta cheese at the end as I wanted it to stay as a separate part of the meal, not melt into the ragout during cooking. You can use other cheese such as goat cheese, Asiago or Parmesan.
- Fresh tomatoes can be used...peeled, seeded and chopped. Add some chicken stock if more liquid is needed.
- Originally I was going to use chick peas, but found that I had a can of cannellini beans instead. Use whatever beans you have. If you are using canned beans, make sure to drain and rinse them. If you are using dried beans, soak them in cold water overnight, then simmer them until they are tender, using fresh water and no salt, before adding them to the ragout.
- Other vegetables can be added...carrots, celery, rutabaga, squash, mushrooms, eggplant, sweet potatoes.
- I used basil and oregano as they were available; try rosemary, thyme, parsley.
- This can be served over rice, pasta, polenta or with fresh crusty bread.
- The chicken can be stuffed, browned and baked on its own. The ragout turned it into a complete meal, as well as used the bits and pieces I had left from another meal.
- Leftovers can be frozen, or turned into a soup by adding chicken stock to the ragout. Remove the chicken from the bone, dice or shred it, and add it to the soup.