Roasted chicken legs with warm tomato vinaigrette

January 9, 2011 § 5 Comments

We’re pretty solidly on our way into January, but I’m still thinking vaguely about resolutions.  I haven’t really made one.  Or I’ve made half a million.  Both, And.  Like so many other people, I’d love to eat even better and exercise even more.  Overall we do pretty okay in this household, however there is always, somewhat unfortunately, room for improvement.  But, as far as I can tell, my real resolution for this new year has been to start parting my hair on the other side of my head.  This was a sudden decision not founded on much of anything in particular.  It was sort of intuitive, and it also has been seeming to me symbolic somehow, the part in your hair sitting right above your brain, and all.

I couldn’t help myself, and just this morning I decided to look up what parting your hair on the right side “means” according to who knows who, the people who like to develop theories about the meanings of unconscious body language and self-presentation decisions, I suppose.  A right side part (which I have just introduced to my scalp) supposedly means you’re creative, artistic, and outgoing.  The left side (my former side) means you’re responsible and a strong leader.  (A middle part means you’re balanced.  It also makes my face look ridiculously long, so I guess I’m giving up my aspirations toward balance ;). )  This is interesting to me because, remarkably, the message of the left side part – dependable, a leader – is the self I’ve spent much of my life trying to project, while never feeling it was that good of a fit.  The right side part – creative, artistic – is actually more aligned with my natural approach to the world.  The trouble is, I’ve never thought very highly of my artistic talents.  I have that bent, but I don’t usually like the art I create.  It tends to be goofy, even cute, and I can’t shake off of myself the dogma that art should be serious, beautiful, heart wrenching.

A, shall we say, artistic temperament also never seems to sit too comfortably in the departments where I find myself working and studying – science departments that is.  Maybe this is my own little stab at irony. I’m fascinated by science, but research study design is not the way my brain operates – it’s like trying to fit your feet into gloves.  Oi.  On a semi-related note, my dad gave me one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received this year, an “artistic license.”  How fabulous is that?!  It states that it entitles the bearer to all manner of questionable aesthetic choices (ahem, my orange bathroom, ahem); fabulous fashion (if I have this, I attribute it to my mother, who is the queen of excellent taste); and to bold, unsupported conjecturing and theorizing.  It feels like just the thing I need to have to flash at my advisor when she gives me the look, after I’ve come up with something insane I’d like to include in my dissertation.

Receiving this license also felt like such a validation, a wonderful reminder of something I already know but don’t always bother to remember, which is that my father (really both my parents, of course), who is incredibly proud of me for my research and academic pursuits, also sees me for exactly who I am and gives me license to be that way.  So, I’m resolving to part my hair on the right side, and carry my new license, and feel good about it.  Even while fulfilling the other requirements my work and the world have for me.

Oh, and the chicken.  This has been a circuitous and far-fetched way of getting to roast chicken (uh, I just flashed my license, so we’re good now), but let’s just suppose that you have resolved to eat better.  Well, my friend, then please introduce these roast chicken legs to your go-to list.  They’re easy, healthy, and incredibly flavorful.  I love roasting chicken legs because you barely have to do anything to turn them into a meal fit for the finest of company.  The one trick is to buy chicken that has been well raised.  Pleeeeease don’t buy commercially, mass-raised, hormone pumped chicken.  Look for chicken that has no added hormones, and preferably was free-range.  It’s better for you sure, but it also tastes worlds better.  It actually tastes like chicken!  Also, get chicken legs with the skin on.  You see, if you take the skin off after cooking, before eating (after nibbling on a bit because it is, admittedly, delicious) then you only get a tiny bit of added fat (which you would have needed anyway for cooking), but you get a ridiculous quantity of added flavor and it keeps the meat tender, succulent even.  Roast chicken legs are always good, but the warm tomato vinaigrette really makes this dish stand up and sing a soaring aria.  It’s lovely, vibrant, light, sweet and tangy.  I got the idea after I randomly threw some leftover cherry tomatoes in with a roasting chicken while cooking a number of weeks ago.  The tangy bursts from the tomatoes, mingling with the chicken juices, was so striking and satisfying, I decided to make a dish where I was more intentional about working in that flavor.  Here it is.

Roasted chicken legs with warm tomato vinaigrette (serves 4)

  • 4 whole chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs) with skin on
  • 2 cups of root vegetables of your choice (carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas), cut into small chunks (around 3/4 inch)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 generous tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 1 Tbs. sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat your oven to 425F.  Toss the chopped root vegetables with a very small amount of olive oil and some salt and pepper.  Spread them in a medium baking/roasting pan.  Sprinkle the chicken legs generously with salt and pepper, then arrange them on top of the root vegetables in the pan.  Pop the whole thing into the oven to roast until the chicken is done (around 45 minutes).

2. Put the halved cherry tomatoes, cut sides up, in another roasting dish in a single layer (you want there to be enough room to have a bit of space between them, the ones in my picture are actually too crowded), drizzle them with a little olive oil and sprinkle them lightly with salt.  Put them in the oven at the same time as the chicken, but take them out after 30 minutes (before the chicken is quite done)

3.  In a small saucepan, heat about 1 tsp. olive oil over medium heat, then stir in the garlic and cook until it is golden (a couple of minutes).  Then stir in the herbes de Provence, semi-roasted tomatoes, and the vinegar.  Simmer for a couple of minutes.

4.  When the chicken is cooked through (you can tell if you cut into the thick part of thigh and it no longer looks raw and the juice runs clear), take it out of the oven.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and the root vegetables to a serving platter, leaving the chicken juice behind.  Take about 1/4 cup of the chicken juices and stir them in with the tomato mixture.  Pour this on top of the chicken legs and serve.

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