Monday, 13 July 2015

Smashed Garlic and Thyme Roasted Chicken Legs

It was time to use the chicken legs that were in the fridge, so I chose to roast them with smashed fresh garlic and thyme. The legs still had the back attached, so that was used to make gravy. What is best with chicken and gravy? Roast potatoes! I roasted  mine with Thai red curry paste to add a zing, and finished them off with crumbled feta cheese.

Roasting the chicken with the smashed garlic allowed me to use up all the little cloves that are in a bulb of garlic. I find them tedious to deal with and always leave them until I have to use them. This was a perfect chance to use them...

Start off by cutting the backbones off the chicken legs.

Put them into a pan, along with any excess skin and fat. Cook them over a medium heat, stirring often, and removing the fat as it renders.

The skin and meat will start to crisp and brown; this will add a lot of flavour and depth to your gravy.

 I used 3 cloves of garlic per chicken leg; I would use more next time!

Using the flat side of your knife blade, press down on the clove to crush it. This will split the skin as well, and it can then be easily removed.

Strip the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme, lightly crushing them between your fingers as you do so.

Carefully lift the skin over the thigh section of the chicken leg, making a pocket.

Insert 3 cloves of smashed garlic and a few crushed thyme leaves.

Replace the skin.

Place the chicken legs onto a rack inside a roasting pan. That way the chicken won't stew in any fat that is rendered during roasting.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Roast the chicken at 375F until cooked through; it took about 75 minutes in my oven. The time will depend on the size of your chicken legs as well. The juices will run clear when the thickest part of the leg is pierced, and an oven thermometer should read at least 165F; I usually aim for 170F. Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

You should have crispy skin, and tender juicy meat, with sweet roasted garlic just under the skin. The garlic flavour will permeate the meat as it cooks.

While the chicken is roasting, the potatoes can go in beside them. I used baby red potatoes, cut in half.

Mix together:

2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons olive oil

Toss the potatoes in the curry oil and place into a roasting pan, in a single layer.

Roast until the potatoes are crispy on the outside and tender and fluffy on the inside, about 1 hour.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and crumble the feta cheese over the top. It will soften right away, and you will have a lovely contrast of creamy, salty cheese with spicy, crispy potatoes.

To finish off the gravy, add some sliced onions to the pan and cook them until they soften.

Remove the biggest chunks of bone from the pan as well as any excess fat. Add enough flour to absorb the remaining fat, and allow it to cook for a few minutes.

Add chicken stock, stirring until it starts to boil. Adjust the consistency to your liking by adding more chicken stock. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Strain the gravy to remove any remaining bits of bone, skin and onions, and serve with the chicken and potatoes.

  • The amount of garlic you use for each piece of chicken depends on how strong you want the garlic taste to be. It does mellow out as it roasts, and becomes soft, creamy, sweet and nutty. The raw garlic flavour does penetrate the meat as it cooks.
  • Crushing the thyme leaves helps to release some of the oils and increases the amount of flavour.
  • Any herbs can be used, but try sticking with woody herbs as they can withstand the heat better...rosemary, sage, thyme.
  • Herb butter can be used instead of garlic and thyme...insert a small amount under the skin. It will melt as it roasts, releasing the flavours into the meat, and increasing the crispiness of the skin due to the extra fat from the butter.
  • The chicken can be roasted on a bed of vegetables, such as diced carrots, celery and onions. This will add flavour to the meat, and the vegetables can be added to the chicken bones in the gravy, before thickening it with flour. 
  • I find that the fat in the chicken skin is sufficient to achieve a crispy outside. You can drizzle the chicken with a bit of olive oil before putting it into the oven if you like to achieve an even crispier skin.
  • The Thai red curry paste is full of spices and flavour, so I did not add any extra salt or pepper. The feta cheese is also salty from the brine, so keep that in mind as well. I usually rinse the brine from the feta cheese by running it under cold water, but the saltiness can still be quite intense.
  • I used red Thai curry, if you have yellow or green they can be substituted. Curry powder, garam masala or tandoori masala could also be used. 
  • If you have chili oil, consider using that instead of olive oil.
  • For the gravy, the more colour you have on the bones before adding the onions, the better. The colour is caused by caramelization and this is what adds the depth of flavour. I had 5 chicken backbones and I used half an onion. Herbs and other vegetables such as celery and carrots can also be added to the bones.
  • Leftover chicken is perfect for lunch or picnics; pulled off the bone and used to make soups, pasta sauces, added to quesadillas, wraps or sandwhiches.

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