This recipe of Chicken Legs with Tomatoes and Basil caught my attention recently when I was noodling around on Food 52’s Genius Recipe section. So much goodness there: Simple, straightforward do-able recipes yielding excellent results, usually without fussiness, ingredients challenges, or demand for extensive attention. Translation: Busy weeknight gold.
This one came from Chef Jamie Oliver, with a summertime hook due to its use of fresh basil in abundance. It’s not summertime any more, despite frequent returns to 80 degrees and higher in the middle of the day.
But I liked the fact that everything goes into one big pan, emerging a handsome, burnished gold. I doubted the chicken could look so roasty-good following the recipe as written, but we have lots of fresh basil still thriving in our small raised bed garden, so I had to try it. I did. As you can see, it did come out handsomely browned and I can tell you it was delicious.
Adding to this recipe’s Genius-ness is the suggestion that leftover chicken could be pulled off the bone, chopped, and tossed with pasta and remaining ingredients for a second supper from the one-pot meal. That came out wonderfully as well. I added freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly chopped parsley and basil to liven up the reboot, and it was a winner. Next time I’ll try this with chopped parsley and dill instead of basil since our big basil supply is fading fast and it’s expensive as herbs go. Parsley and dill also keep their vivid green color even when heated which will be a plus, and I adore the flavor of dill. Here’s the recipe, and I’ve given you some additional notes below, along with a link to the original post on Food 52.
- 4 chicken leg quarters
- Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1 big bunch fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
- 2 big handfuls red and yellow cherry tomatoes and ripe plum or beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes halved, plum tomatoes quartered
- 1 whole bulb garlic, broken into cloves
- 1 fresh red chile, finely chopped, or a big pinch of dried chile flakes
- Olive oil
- One 14.5-ounce/410 g can cannelini beans or navy beans or white beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 2 handfuls new potatoes, scrubbed (optional)
- Heat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Season your chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper and put them into a snug-fitting pan in one layer, skin side up. Throw in all the basil leaves and stalks, then chuck in your tomatoes. Scatter the garlic cloves into the pan with the chopped chile and drizzle over some olive oil. Mix around a bit, pushing the tomatoes underneath.
- Place in the oven, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours, turning any of the exposed tomatoes halfway through, until the chicken skin is crisp and the meat is falling off the bone. If after an hour or so the skin isn’t crisping to your liking, you can turn up the heat and switch to convection, or just blast it under the broiler for a bit at the end, rotating the pan occasionally and watching closely, until you get the skin as brown as you like. Just don't let the sauce simmer too vigorously or the meat might toughen up.
- If you fancy, you can add some drained cannelini beans or some sliced new potatoes to the pan along with the chicken. Or you can serve the chicken with some simple mashed potato. Squeeze the garlic out of the skins before serving. You could even make it part of a pasta dish—remove the chicken meat from the bone and shred it, then toss into a bowl of linguini or spaghetti and serve at once.
*I added more basil and some parsley at the end because it darkens and loses its lovely aroma into the dish. It’s not wasted, but I love the bouquet from an extra flourish at the end.
*I used the beans, though mine were pigeon peas which we had on hand, rather than white beans. Loved them and think cannellini beans would be lovely, or navy beans.
* I added potatoes, but I don’t think they were worth the time to prep them. For more filling-ness, I’d add more beans.
* More tomatoes would be a plus, so I will add 3 – 5 Roma or plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped next time I make this. It’s fine, but I like things a little saucier so I’ll be going in a juicy direction.
*We did as recommended, pulling off the chicken from bones and tossing it with pasta for a second round the next day. This dish is delicious, easy, no-fuss goodness, with easy variation of fresh herb focus, from basil to dill to parsley, and a tasty application for leftover chicken.
Here’s the Food 52 entry which got me cooking: