Chicken Thighs Packed with Sorrel

This has been a very good spring for sorrel. The cool temperatures have brought it on slowly and it has been extremely tender and delicious and even a little less slug-ridden than usual.

Using it to stuff chicken thighs like this is a clever use for it; the fact that it turns a fairly unappetizing khaki green when cooked is hidden beneath a layer of crispy chicken skin. Spring oniony stuff – you can use whatever you have, really – and mushrooms round it out. I did not actually add extra mushrooms to the pan when I roasted the chicken, but I wish I had. I don’t think too many more could be squeezed into the filling, but I did not think the amount I used was really enough. Roasting some more alongside the chicken should solve that problem.

As usual, sorrel has been the first substantial vegetable out of the garden, beating the asparagus by about 2 weeks. You are not likely to get any unless you grow it yourself, so I highly recommend that you grow it yourself, if you possibly can. Seeds for it have become much easier to find in the last few years.

3 to 6 servings
1 hour 30 minutes – 30 minutes prep time

4 cups chopped sorrel leaves
12 to 18 medium button mushrooms
3 green onions OR a good handful of chives
2 tablespoons unsalted butter OR chicken fat
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
6 large skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 or 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil or melted butter

Wash the sorrel well, and discard any tough stems or damaged leaves. Chop them fairly finely. Clean 6 – that’s 6 – of the mushrooms, trim them, and dice them. Wash, trim, and chop the green onions or chives finely.

Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat, and add the drained but not completely dried sorrel. Cook until it is all wilted and changed to a dull brownish green, then transfer it to a small mixing bowl. Drain off any liquid into another small bowl.

Melt the butter in the skillet and cook the mushrooms until soft and lightly browned. Add the green onions or chives and cook until wilted, then add them all to the sorrel. Season with the salt and pepper, and mix well with the bread crumbs. The mixture should be a soft, coarse paste.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Debone the chicken thighs, being careful to keep them whole. Leave the skins on, but loosen them on at least one side, running your fingers in from side to side, but again, be careful to keep them attached on at least two opposite sides.

Divide the filling into 6 equal portions. Take each portion, and divide it in half. Half goes under the skin of a chicken thigh, spread out to form an even layer between the skin and the meat. Put the other half in roughly the position the bone used to occupy, and fold the thigh gently closed. Place it cut side down in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish of sufficient size to hold all the thighs in a single snug but uncrowded layer, with a bit of space for the remaining mushrooms. Repeat with the remaining filling and chicken thighs.

Pour the liquid you set aside earlier around the chicken thighs. Peel and mince the garlic and sprinkle it around. Clean the remaining mushrooms and cut them in halves. Brush them with the oil or butter. Arrange them around the chicken thighs. Bake them at 375°F for 1 hour, until golden-brown and cooked through. Let them rest 5 minutes before serving.

There should be a fair quantity of pan juices, and the filling will also be soft and oozy, so these are best served with something to soak it all up. Mashed potatoes, rice, noodles, polenta, or even some good sturdy slices of toast all come to mind.

Last year – or sometime – at this time I made Rhubarb-Ginger Syrup