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Julie Kelly's Blog

A woman emailed the other day in response to my column about SNAP (food stamps). She asked for suggestions about what to buy on a limited budget since she is a food stamp recipient herself (she sent the request via iPad, but that’s another issue.)

Whenever I am asked what meat to buy on a budget, I immediately reply “chicken thighs.” They cost about half the price of chicken breasts, are more flavorful, easier to cook and offer endless options for preparation. Because they’re higher in fat content than chicken breasts, they don’t dry out as quickly during the cooking process.

Chicken thighs are readily available at every grocery store and Costco sells in bulk for about $3 per pound. You can use this ingredient in a number of recipes from chicken stir fry to fajitas and lettuce wraps.

This week’s technique is how to stuff chicken thighs. It’s a bit tricky so take your time. You’ll need toothpicks and a non-stick skillet. If you’re buying fresh, opt for thinner thighs (don’t we all.)

Pat dry the thighs and sprinkle both sides with salt. Prepare the filling – this recipe uses seasonal asparagus – then carefully fasten the ends together with a few toothpicks. Don’t overfill the thigh or you won’t be able to securely fasten.

Make sure your skillet is oven-proof; most are safe to 400°. It’s best to finish the thighs in the oven to ensure they’re cooked thoroughly.

Start searing the thighs on the flat side first. You’ll need to turn the thighs three times instead of two to work around the toothpicks. If you’re cooking in batches, just set the first batch on a plate and cover with foil while you prepare the next round.

After you remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly. And don’t forget the most important part – REMOVE THE TOOTHPICKS! A trip to the ER to remove a toothpicks stuck in someone’s throat really spoils dinner.

Once you get the technique down, go ahead and experiment with other fillings. Ricotta, roasted red pepper and spinach is another good one.

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"Julie, I really enjoyed your class and took way more away than I ever thought I would. I never in a million years thought a cooking class would make me excited to try new things!! So my hat's off to you. You are a great teacher and the recipes are so good!" 

 

Susie C., Orland Park