The thighs are my favorite part of a chicken. While I love them simply roasted whole, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and rubbed with olive oil to help crisp up the skin, the possibilities afforded when the thighs are skinned and filleted before they are cooked are virtually endless. This Italian themed recipe sees them firstly baked in a casserole dish rather than simply oven roasted as they don't have the skin to help lock in the juices and may prove dry and tough if oven cooked totally unprotected. It is also worth knowing that buying already filleted chicken thighs can see you pay up to twice as much as for whole thighs (you're effectively paying a very steep price for the extra work undertaken), so filleting them yourself at home should be considered an option.
Gorgonzola cheese crusted chicken thigh with balsamic red onion dressing on tomato and mushroom taglatelle pasta bed
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 2 skinless and boneless chicken thigh fillets
- Olive oil (around 3 tablespoons in total for the various componenets of the dish)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 slices moderately stale bread
- 2 ounce piece Gorgonzola cheese
- 4 to 6 ounces tagliatelle pasta or as desired (4 small nests in this instance)
- 10 small cherry tomatoes
- 10 small button mushrooms
- Pinch dried basil
- Pinch dried oregano
- ½ small to medium red onion
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- Freshly chopped parsley to garnish
Start your oven preheating to 375F/190C/Gas Mark 5.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the base of a large casserole dish. Open the chicken fillets out and season with salt and pepper on both sides before laying them side by side and flat out in the bottom of the dish. Drizzle with a little more oil, put the lid on the dish and bake in the oven for twenty-five minutes.
It is always best to use slightly stale bread for making breadcrumbs as fresh bread is usually too moist and the crumbs won't form properly. If you only have fresh bread, one tip is to sit the slices in your oven at its lowest setting for five minutes or so to dry them out. This would obviously have to be done before the oven was put on to preheat for cooking the chicken.
Tear the bread slices in to medium sized pieces and put them in to your food processor or blender. Roughly chop the cheese and add it to the chamber along with the bread. Blitz by pulsing until the bread is fully crumbled and combined with the cheese.
Pour the cheesy breadcrumbs in to a small bowl or deep plate and cover until required.
Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil before carefully adding the tagliatelle five minutes before the chicken thighs are due to come out of the oven. Adjust the heat to achieve a moderate simmer for ten minutes.
Take the chicken strips from the oven and pierce each piece at its thickest part to ensure the juices run clear. Lift them to a heated plate and cover with foil. Leave them to rest for five minutes or so.
Rinse the tomatoes and mushrooms under running cold water in a colander before patting them dry with kitchen paper.
Pour about a tablespoon of olive oil in to a saucepan and bring it up to a medium heat. Add the tomatoes and mushrooms and season with salt, pepper and the dried oregano and basil. Stir well and cook for three or four minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour another tablespoon of olive oil in to a second saucepan and also bring that up to a medium heat. Add the sliced red onion half, the balsamic vinegar and the peeled and grated garlic clove. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook for three or four minutes, again stirring frequently.
When the tagliatelle is cooked, drain it through a colander and allow it to sit in the colander for a couple of minutes to steam off and dry out. Put your broiler (kitchen grill) on to preheat to its maximum setting. Lay the thighs on a suitable tray and scatter evenly with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Place the tray under the heat for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese, crisp up the breadcrumbs and turn the crusty topping slightly golden brown.
Tip the tagliatelle in to the pot with the tomatoes and mushrooms and lift it and carefully stir fold to combine.
Divide the pasta mix evenly between two serving plates and spread it out to form beds for the chicken thighs.
Lay one breaded thigh on each pasta bed.
Spoon half the balsamic dressing over each chicken thigh and garnish with the chopped parsley immediately before serving.
Alternative Serving Suggestion
If you wish to try these cheesy breaded chicken thighs but don't want to go to the extra bother of making the pasta and balsamic dressing, they are surprisingly tasty on a sandwich for lunch. Simply prepare the chicken thighs and breadcrumbs exactly as described above before laying one on a slice of lightly buttered bread,
Scatter with some parsley (optional), add a second slice of buttered bread on top and cut in half to serve. This is also delicious when the chicken has been allowed to cool completely and in such an instance a mixed leaf salad laid on the bread before the chicken would add an extra dimension to the sandwich.