Cooking with Nonna and a recipe for Involtini di Pollo, aka Stuffed Chicken Thighs
"I love eating chicken with my bare hands. It makes me want to snarl at people, even more than usual"
- Jeri Smith-Ready, Requiem for the Devil
I have so many recipes that I personally think are incredible, which makes choosing which recipes to post really, really hard. But I've learned that some dishes just aren't practical for your average person and, as such, posting that recipe for public consumption just doesn't make sense. It might be because it requires ingredients or tools that most people wouldn't have in the house, or it might be that the recipe just requires too much work to be feasible for your average home cook. As I want people to make these recipes (that's kind of the whole point of posting them), I've realized that posting what I think are the most interesting recipes doesn't actually matter so much as posting what "the people" want to see. Go figure, huh?
So what I did was that I posted a poll on my instagram story last week asking what exactly people wanted me to post next. I offered a choice between a decadent recipe, a healthy recipe, a drink recipe, a recipe for your fluffy family members (meaning your pets, of course), or a recipe from my Nonna. And lo and behold, requests for a Nonna recipe came out on top.
I've mentioned before, my Nonna is an incredible cook. On top of having an inherent talent and passion for cooking, she ran her own catering company for decades and perfected many recipes that she still makes to this day. I've posted a number of her dishes in the past that have focused mostly on mastering the basics (the perfect tomato sauce, for ex.) or that featured seasonal dishes that were a huge part of celebrations growing up (easter ricotta pizza, for ex). I've also posted a few of my Nonna's recipes that I consider to be "essential Italian dishes" (lasagna, for ex) but a number of them require time to make them from start to finish and I wanted to go with something pretty easy peasy on this one.
Taking all of that into account, I decided to post the recipe for my Nonna's Involtini di Pollo, aka Stuffed Chicken Thighs. They don't require tons of prep, they use common tools and ingredients, you can prep them up to a certain point in advance, they aren't expensive to make and darn are they tasty. They also lend themselves very well to substitutions such as swapping breadcrumbs and cheese out for gluten-free breadcrumbs and lactose-free or vegan cheese. And if your heart tells you to throw a little something else into the stuffing (like sun-dried tomatoes, maybe?), I encourage you to go for it. Maybe just don't tell Nonna, though? She's kind of a stickler.
Makes: 8 pcs Prep time: 30 mins Total time: 90 minutes
- 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 5 g parsley, washed and finely chopped
- 8 slices of bacon or prosciutto, neatly stacked
- 2 medium-hard boiled eggs, grated with the large-holed side of a grater
- 50 g/ 1/2 c mozzarella cheese, grated
- 8 g/ 4 tsp grated parmesan cheese
- 1 1/4 c breadcrumbs, divided
- 8 small skewers
- 1/4 c white wine
- Salt to taste
- Vegetable oil
1. Debone the chicken thighs, discarding the bones, and flatten them out as much as possible. This will ensure that they cook evenly when stuffed later on.
2. Place the deboned chicken thighs skin-side down on a cutting board and salt generously.
3. Cut 1" off of the end of the stacked pieces or bacon/prosciutto and set the larger pieces aside for later. Place one 1" piece of bacon/prosciutto in the center of each laid out chicken thigh.
4. Top each piece of bacon with 1/8th of each of: the grated egg, mozzarella, parmesan cheese and parsley. Complete the filling by sprinkling 1/2 tbsp of breadcrumbs on each chicken thigh (using 1/4 cup total), trying to keep the majority of the breadcrumbs towards the center as much as possible.
5. Firmly roll the chicken thighs up to close them and secure the seam with a small wooden skewer. Do so by piercing the seam in a zigzag motion as if you are sewing,- watch the video below to see how Nonna does it!
6. Wrap each chicken thigh across the center with a strip of bacon or prosciutto, tucking in the end to secure it.
*Note- If you'd like to freeze the stuffed chicken thighs, you can prepare them up to this point in the recipe and freeze them flat on a baking sheet. Once they're frozen solid, transfer them to an airtight bag and keep frozen for up to three months. When you're ready to enjoy, simply defrost them on a sedan wrap-covered plate in the refrigerator and continue on with the next steps in the recipe.
7. Place the remaining 1 cup of breadcrumbs in a wide bowl. Roll the chicken in the breadcrumbs and pack it tightly with your hands to ensure that they stick to the chicken properly. Nonna maintains that a dry breading is the way that this dish should be done as it ensures that the stuffed chicken thighs receive a more delicate coating of breadcrumbs than if one used beaten egg to make the breadcrumbs stick.
8. In a deep-sided frying pan, add a centimetre or so of vegetable oil and heat it over medium-high.
9. Preheat the oven to 350*F.
10. While you wait for the oil to heat up, line a 9" x 13" deep baking pan with a piece of parchment paper. Set it aside by the stovetop along with a pair of tongs on a small plate so that they are ready to use when you need them.
11. When the oil is hot, place the stuffed chicken thighs in the frying pan. make sure to leave a bit of space in-between the chicken thighs to allow them to cook properly. If you overcrowd the pan while frying, the heat from the pan will get trapped under the food which will create steam and result in the food being soggy and greasy when you remove it from the oil.
12. Fry the chicken thighs for 2-3 minutes each on the front and the back, or until the two sides are golden brown.
13. Remove the browned chicken thighs from the frying pan and gently shake off the excess oil before setting them aside on the prepared parchment-lined baking pan. Repeat the process until all of the chicken thighs are browned and you've placed them all in the baking sheet.
14. Drizzle the oil you used for frying overtop of the chicken thighs and cover the baking pan with a sheet of tinfoil, shiny-side out.
15. Place the baking pan on the bottom rack of the oven and bake, covered, for 20 minutes.
16. Remove the baking pan from the oven and drizzle 1/4 cup of white wine overtop of the chicken.
17. Re-cover the pan with tinfoil, place it back on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the center of the stuffed chicken thigh reads 165*F
18. Remove the tinfoil, place the pan on the top rack of the oven and broil on high for 4-8 minutes or until the stuffed chicken thighs are medium brown in colour.
19. Plate the stuffed chicken thighs on a platter, gently shaking off the excess oil beforehand, and sprinkle with a bit of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Serve hot and enjoy!