Smoke-Roasted Chicken Thighs With Paprika and Creme Fraiche Stuffed Tomatoes

As Ohio seems to have gotten a severe fast-forward into fall, I am resigned to the fact that grilling out is going to be few and far between. Although, my parents grill in the dead of winter in Michigan (and shovel a path to their grill!), so I am not saying it cannot be done. But, I will admit our grill gets used a bit less frequently, especially when I would rather cacoon inside and smell up the house with spices and tantalizing goodness.

But, a few more grilling recipes will be showing up as stragglers – ones I really wanted to try this year and just couldn’t bear waiting until next spring. Needless to say, they would become hidden in my folder of “must tries” and then get shoved aside for the new recipes that Bon Appetit or La Cucina Italiana says I must make in spring 2011.

So, this New York Times recipes is one of the last ones standing. My husband requested it when he read it a few Sundays ago, and I make a point to always whip up his requests…

It seems so simple – just smoked paprika, honey, lemon juice, garlic and butter – smothered on some chicken thighs and nestled on a sizzling grill. But, the taste explodes with a sweetness of the honey (and nice caramelizing), the smokiness of the paprika and the punch of the garlic. And, the butter just melts it all together…

The stuffed tomatoes were a far cry from what the original recipe said. I couldn’t find robiola in my local store (although I have run past 2 recipes since then requiring it, so I will need to find a supplier quick!), so I substituted creme fraiche. I am sure another cheese would be better – something less the texture of creme fraiche and more the texture of, well, robiola. But, it turned out really nice and refreshing, and cut the smokiness of the chicken perfectly.

So, don’t give up on your grill quite yet -there is no snow to shovel, just leaves to sweep out of the way. Seems a small price to pay for a fantastic dinner!

SMOKE-ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH PAPRIKA
Serves 4
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons softened butter
8 bone-in chicken thighs (about 3½ pounds)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Lemon wedges, for garnish
Mint leaves, for garnish.

Build a fire in a grill with a cover, leaving about ⅓ of the grill free of coals. If using a gas grill, make sure one side of the grill is unheated, and either swap out the paprika above for the smoked version known as pimenton de la vera or wrap two small mounds of moistened wood chips in heavy aluminum foil and pierce the tops of the packets with the tines of a fork.

In a bowl, combine the paprikas, honey, lemon juice, garlic and butter and stir to make a paste. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then coat thoroughly by hand with the spice paste.

Place chicken on cooler side of grill and cover. If using wood chips, place the foil packets, pierced side up, on the hotter side of the grill and cover. Roast chicken for 15 minutes, turn, cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until cooked through.

Serve hot, warm or at room temperature, with lemon wedges, sprinkled with mint leaves.

ROBIOLA-STUFFED TOMATOES (or CREME FRAICHE-STUFFED TOMATOES)
Serves 4

4 large ripe tomatoes
3½ ounces robiola cheese, rind removed, diced (or creme fraiche or other soft cheese)
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or use insides of ripe tomatoes, above
½ teaspoon mild paprika
4 chives, finely diced
2 tablespoons vodka (yes, vodka)

Halve the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh. Sprinkle the shells with kosher salt and turn them upside down on paper towels to drain for 30 minutes.

Place the robiola, gorgonzola and butter in a bowl, season sparingly with salt and aggressively with pepper, and beat until smooth.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Fill the tomatoes with the mixture. Place on serving dish until ready to serve. Serves 4. Adapted from “Recipes From an Italian Summer,” by the editors of Phaidon Press.

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