Ease in the kitchen is something I believe we can all agree upon. After a long day – or a short but dozy one – few things beat a simple, comforting meal that does all the hard work locked away in the oven.
When I think of rustic food, of real home cooking, I think of baharat, or Arabic 7 spice. Warm and aromatic, rich with cinnamon, cloves, white pepper, and cardamom, it is an ideal complement to naturally mild chicken. 7 spice can be found in any Middle Eastern grocer, and as the mix varies by region, use that as an excuse to try as many geographical varieties as possible. It will be time well spent.
Lately we have taken to juicy chicken legs rather than breasts, as they are richer in flavor and stay tender in the oven without becoming stringy. My preference are skinless legs with french tips, sometimes called “lovely legs.” Though I am known as a lover of crispy skin, I do prefer lighter everyday meals, and despite being quite lean without the skin on, the chicken legs stay gloriously juicy and crisp under the broiler. If you can’t find these at your supermarket or butcher, simply buy drumsticks and remove the skin.
I find the best way to cook these legs is to roast them at a moderate temperature for 90 minutes; the first hour they are covered, which allows them to release a savory basting broth. Then they spend 30 additional minutes uncovered to cook through, and finally, blister under a searing broiler for the last 3-4 minutes. Serve them with salad, roasted vegetables, rice, or your homey side of choice.
- 1kg / 2lb skinless chicken legs
- 2 tbsp Arabic 7-Spice (baharat) - or - a generous dusting of cinnamon and allspice plus a dash of nutmeg or cloves
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
- Pat the chicken pieces dry to remove any excess moisture. Place the chicken and all of the spices in a roasting pan (metal and ceramic are both great) or a baking sheet. Drizzle over the olive oil, and toss together thoroughly to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover the pan tightly with foil, and roast for 1 hour. Remove the foil and continue roasting for an additional 30 minutes, occasionally basting the chicken in the pan juices, until the skin is golden brown and the meat is coming off the bone. Heat the broiler, and let the chicken crisp up for 2-3 minutes at the very end of cooking.
- Serve immediately or at room temperature.
Audio pairing: Ondatrópica, “Tiene Sabor, Tiene Sazón”