Whole chicken legs (drumsticks + thighs) are so inexpensive, but I don’t know too many ways to prepare them that don’t involve breading and frying. There’s always braising, which is more time consuming, and is so rich that it reminds me too much that I’m not eating a healthier all-white-meat chicken breast. This recipe, adapted from January 2014 Gourmet magazine, is the best of both worlds: crispy skin with juicy meat (but from roasting instead of frying), and the rich, complex, salty flavour typical of braising, from the pancetta, olives and roasted garlic. I should also mention – it took less than an hour to make, start to finish.
Grocery list (note that the original calls for 2 whole chickens; instead I halved the recipe and used only leg pieces): 3 pounds whole chicken legs, 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, 5-10 peeled garlic cloves (how much do you like roasted garlic?), 1 cup white wine, 1 thick slice pancetta, about a dozen black olives.
Preheat the oven to 450. Chop the thyme, cube the pancetta, and chop the olives into big pieces.
Lay the chicken in a large, shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Toss with the thyme and red pepper flakes to coat.
Toss in the pancetta cubes and garlic cloves. Roast for 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven and pour the wine directly over top. Return to the oven and cook for another 8 minutes. (How do you like that action shot!?)
Throw the olives in the pan with the chicken, and roast for another 15 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees.
Like almost any cooked meat, I let it rest for a few minutes before serving. I read somewhere that the meat reabsorbs some of its own cooking juices in those first few minutes of cooling. Not sure if that’s true, but it’s too hot to eat right away anyway, so it can’t hurt right?