Chicken thighs with bacon, tomato and mozzarella cheese

Take a break from regular roast fowl with this flavour-packed version of oven-cooked chicken thighs. Your grateful guests will shower you with compliments.

To make chicken thighs with bacon, tomato and mozzarella cheese for four, you will need:

    • 1,5 kg chicken thighs bone-in
    • 200g back bacon
    • 4 cloves garlic
    • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 15ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 dashes of red Tobasco (or 1 small red chilli)
  • 2 cans tomatoes (about 800g)
  • A generous handful fresh basil
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 200g mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 200°C. This meal demands a skillet either in cast iron or any other ovenproof material such as Corningware. We begin by heating the olive oil in the skillet on the hob, set to medium. Add the slices of back bacon and let them cook slowly, turning them from time to time. After a few minutes, remove the bacon and let it rest on a fresh paper towel.
Tear off and discard the thigh skins. Or don’t. This is a moment of personal input to the recipe. Some kitchen mechanics claim there is too much fat in the skin. Adherents of the Banting heresy may disagree. Raise the temperature to high, and sear the lightly salted and peppered thighs for 10 to 12 minutes, turning them a couple of times. Transfer to a covered plate until required later in the proceedings.
Pour off the oil from the skillet, measure a tablespoon of it and then return it to the skillet.
Crush, peel and finely chop the garlic. If using a small chilli in place of the red Tobasco, discard the pips and chop the remainer finely. Coarsely chop the anchovies, and add them with the garlic and Tobasco (or chopped chilli) to the skillet on the hob, and let them sizzle for 60 fragrant seconds. Carefully add the entire contents (juice included) of the two cans of tomatoes, plus a tablespoon or so of freshly chopped basil. Stir well and attack the tomatoes with a fork to break them up. Cook with regular stirring for 10 minutes to thicken the sauce.
Add the seared chicken thighs, then stick the skillet into the preheated oven for half an hour, or as long as it takes for the thighs to depink. ‘Depink’ is a new kitchen word meaning to cook the chicken right through.
Remove the skillet and turn on the oven grill. Arrange slices of mozzarella (or mild Gouda if mozzarella is unavailable), and return the skillet to the oven directly under the grill. Give it two minutes or so for the cheese to melt. Remove, garnish with the cooked bacon and a generous scattering of freshly chopped basil. Serve to acclaim.
David Basckin is a freelance journalist and videographer.