Decades ago, one of my go-to, fit-for-company dinners was baked chicken breasts stuffed with grated zucchini and carrot stuffing. An entrée and side dish in one, and a bit of a show piece, too. With the abundance of zucchini in gardens and markets now, it was time to retrace some steps.
In San Francisco, anyway, it’s very difficult to find bone-in chicken breasts with skin. Who would have thought? I went to four stores searching. Really, it was nearly impossible to find except for the Whole Paycheck store. So, I made them with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs instead. And I’m glad I did. They are so much more moist and flavorful than the breast version.
Caution! A trick some less reputable butchers do is leaving loads of extra skin on the chicken parts. This adds weight, which drives up price when sold by the pound (or kg). I probably left half a pound of useless chicken skin on my cutting board. Lesson learned — look for thighs that are fully covered with skin, enough to hold the stuffing, but not so much you could make a lampshade.
The only drawback to using thighs is that they are smaller than breasts so there’s slightly less room for the stuffing, which serves as its own vegetable side dish. You can always make extra stuffing and bake it in a foil packet alongside the chicken. Problem solved!
If you want to make this with breasts, reduce the heat from 375F down to 350F, and remove from the oven when it reaches 160F, not 165F (about 35-40 minutes, but check sooner if your oven runs hot). You’ve done all this work, watch them like a hawk, or… in this case, chicken!
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Zucchini and Carrot Stuffed Chicken Thighs
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 medium zucchini
- 2 large carrots
- 1 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1 cup fresh (not dry) bread crumbs
- 1 large egg
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Olive oil to coat chicken skin
- Bring chicken to room temperature (about 30-45 minutes)
- Pre-heat oven to 375 F (190C)
- Grate cheese, zucchini and peeled carrots. Finely mince garlic
- Beat egg in a large mixing bowl and add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
- Add cheese, bread crumbs and vegetables to bowl and mix with egg and seasonings
- Set up a cooling rack over a large pan with foil (to let chicken fat drip away from the chicken)
- Gently slip a finger under the skin of each chicken thigh making a space between the meat and the skin. Place about a half cup of vegetable mixture under each skin. Pull the skin over the thigh to seal it (if needed, use a toothpick to hold the skin in place – be sure to remove all the toothpicks before serving!). If you have too much extra skin, trim it with kitchen shears
- Place each stuffed thigh on the rack and place in oven
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes (Test with a thermometer. The thigh is fully cooked when the center of it reaches 165F (74C). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can cut into a thigh. There should be no pink flesh and the juices should run clear)