Friday, March 20, 2009

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Legs with Dubliner Cheese

I think it's pretty obvious by now that just about everyone is trying to cut back expense-wise. In all honesty it's about damn time - our country has become way too spoiled and wasteful.

On that cheery note, let's talk about how we can cut back on one of the many things that interests me - the grocery bill. Right now there are blogs-a-plenty offering recession-savvy dining tips on how to cut back on your dining excesses:

*Eat beans and rice, lentils, quinoa, etc.

*Stop buying all that processed garbage for your kids, they don't need to be eating it anyways.

*Drink water instead of the sodas and bottled drinks.

*Pay attention to what you're actually eating.

*Look for bargains at the grocery store.

It's that last one that seems to work the best for me. Mr. TA and I already eat plenty of beans, rice, quinoa and the occasional lentil. We rarely buy anything processed or from the freezer section (except fish and edamame), we keep only milk, fresh-brewed iced tea, orange juice, and coffee in the house for drinking, and I plan each week on a menu.

That really only leaves me with shopping the occasional sale at the grocery store to cut back anymore on cost. Of course, I'm sure many people out there are in the same boat.

However, when the item on sale is a whole chicken or chicken leg quarters, many people pass because they either don't like dark meat or are intimidated at the thought of trying to bone something. This is really unfortunate, because when times are as tough as these people need to pinch pennies everywhere they can. And buying a package of leg quarters at 60 cents per pound is exceedingly cheaper than boneless skinless thighs at $2.19 per pound - and don't even get me started on $5.99 per pound for boneless skinless breasts. Plus, if you do decide to bone the chicken you can save the bones in a bag in the freezer for making chicken stock. Win-win, baby.

So, dissecting the two main reasons for why people won't buy something as tasty as chicken leg quarters:

Don't like dark meat/Thigh and leg meat is more fattening than boneless skinless breasts - OK, fair enough, you don't like dark meat. Meh, I doubt you can taste the difference in soups, pot pies, pastas, etc. Stop being a big baby and save some money already. As for the fat content debate, it's true - dark meat has more fat than white meat. Just keep in mind that a thigh-leg portion weighs on average about 6 oz. I've seen many a chicken breast weigh over 14 oz. If you're allotting one chicken breast per family member not only are you wasting the meat by serving enormous portions that no one in their right mind should finish, but the health benefits of the low-fat breast are outweighed by the fact that you're scarfing down more than twice as much meat. Period.

Now for the second reason: intimidated by deboning? Easy-peasy. Let me show you how.

First, use a very, very sharp knife. It sounds backwards, but using a sharp knife is much safer than using a dull one. Now that you've got your sharpest knife in hand, don't shank yourself.

Don't worry, this is much easier than it appears. (Not the shanking, the boning.)

Start with your leg quarter:

Cut through the skin and tissue right at the end of the leg bone (the part you hold on to when eating a fried chicken leg). Slice all the way around the bone.

Use your knife to slit the skin on the underside of the leg. The skin will peel back nice and easy down the entire piece of meat, usually with just a little coaxing from the knife here and there to release the skin.

Peel all the skin off and release it around the edges with your knife. The end result will be this:

Next, flip the whole piece over and slice down the underside of the leg bone like so:

Open up the skin around the leg and slice down each side, freeing it from the bone:

Now, slip the tip of your knife behind the bone and run it down until you hit the joint, releasing the meat entirely from the leg bone:

Now, slice under the leg joint and locate the thigh bone with your finger tips. Run the tip of your knife down the length of the thigh bone towards the bottom of the piece, like this:

Keep sneaking around until you hit where the thigh bone connects to the rest of the body:

After that, lift up the leg bone, cut underneath the leg joint and along the bottom of the thigh bone until you come out clean on the other side:

Now you can pop all the bones out of the meat and slice any residual cartilage left on. Now is the time to trim all the excess fat off the meat too.

You'll be left with an underside that looks like you chewed it from the bone,

But the top will be nice and neat,

Ta da! You've just deboned a chicken leg quarter! That wasn't hard at all, was it?

I usually like to buy several package of the leg quarters when they go on sale, spend a half hour or so deboning them and then throw them in the freezer in packages appropriate for the sizes of meals I typically make.

Now you can use the meat for all sorts of things, soups, stews, quesadillas, pot pies, pastas, skewers - you name it, you can do it.

My favorite thing to do with chicken legs though is to stuff them. Gordon Ramsay has a delicious recipe I've tried out before, for Sausage Stuffed Chicken Legs . This time I took a slightly more healthful approach and stuffed the legs with pastrami, spinach, and KerryGold's Dubliner cheese.

It was delicious.

Let me show you how.

First, lay out a sheet of foil and season it with a little salt and pepper. Lay out your boned leg quarter.

Top it with a couple pieces of pastrami,

Next comes some spinach sauteed with a little shallot,

Now for the sticks of Dubliner,

Now start the rolling. Roll it onto itself like a jellyroll, then grab the foil to keep it tight:

Wrap it up into a tight little package and twist the ends real tight.

Now you're going to poach this in a pot of boiling water for twenty minutes.

Pull them out and let them cool off for a minute or so and peel off the foil.

Brown them in a hot skillet with a little melted butter and then slice on the diagonal to serve.

Whoever said eating cheap couldn't taste good?

Plus a thank-you to Foodbuzz for supplying me with plenty of KerryGold cheese to try out for St. Paddy's.


katie said...

OMG that looks delicious, and for your next trick and you show how to get the leg off the chicken? Boning chickens is not my strong suit.

So were you for or against the banning?

Sweet Bird said...

I'll try to show that one next, Katie.

I was for the banning - corporate fast food has monopolized the markets in low-income areas. I'm all for less government in people's lives, but the problem is that we have unequal distribution of power and wealth in our country. Unless there is minimal government intervention in ensuring that each member of our society has reasonable access to healthful foods we're going to end up with healthy Manhattan and obese Harlem.

It was a short paper, I didn't get into it as much as I wanted to.

Kevin said...

That stuffed chicken looks good!

Zoomie said...

Here's another great thing to do with chicken legs, and you only do the skinning/boning after cooking, so it's even easier than your nice primer shows!

Kristin said...

I can't tell you how excited I am to have FOUR WHOLE CHICKENS in my freezer right now. I never buy chicken, because we have so much other meat, but a couple of weeks ago when whole chickens were on the super-cheap, must-use-today (or freeze) manager's discount, I lost control and bought four chickens. I know, wild and crazy--that's me. But 24 pounds of chicken for 10 dollars? Who can resist that? And now I'm dreaming of all the many chicken dishes I haven't made for months. Yay!

I'm such a geek.

Anonymous said...

i love dark meat! you're stuffed chicken leg looks great. thanks for boning instruction. i've never done it before and will have to try it sometime.

Jude said...

I get a lot of value for lentils. Somehow I'm full even with a small handful of that stuff.
That is some detailed makeup for the stuffed legs. Even better that it won't make me more broke than I already am.

Filip said...

I am now in the poaching phase! It looked great when I was putting it on the pot, although the chicken looked a little more roughed up than on your pics(I blame the chicken for that). Also used some good quality polish ham instead of pastrami which I didn't have! Thanks for your recipe!