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Chicken Legs Braised with Preserved Lemons, Olives, and Chickpeas

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Serves six.

  • by Tom Colicchio from Fine Cooking
    Issue 49

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 6 lb. chicken legs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped leeks
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 cup chopped preserved lemon (or 2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. grated lemon zest)
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 5 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth; more as needed
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (or canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup oil-cured or niçoise olives, pitted and quartered
  • 1/4 cup capers, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to 350°F. In a Dutch oven or high-sided skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken on all sides; transfer to a plate. Pour off all but a few tablespoons of fat from the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions, leeks, celery and carrots to the braising pot. Cook until the vegetables are tender and just starting to brown. Stir in thyme, garlic, 2 Tbs. of the preserved lemon (or 2 tsp. of the zest) and the cardamom and cook one minute more.

Return the chicken to the pot, and add enough of the broth to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a gentle simmer on the stovetop, then tranfer the pot, uncovered, to the oven.

Braise in the oven, basting and turning the meat occasionally. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer (barely bubbling). The chicken is done when it’s tender enough to cut with a fork and the meat easily comes away from the bone, about 1-1/2 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a plate, let the liquid cool, and spoon off any fat. (If you prefer a smooth, refined sauce, strain the liquid and return it to the pot) Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Return the chicken to the pot.

When ready to serve, warm the meat in the sauce, basting frequently, and stir in the chickpeas, olives, remaining preserved lemons (or lemon zest), and capers.

Make Ahead Tips

You can prepare the braise through the step of reducing the sauce, and then refrigerate the chicken in its sauce, tightly covered, for up to five days or freeze for up to three months. When ready to serve, reheat the chicken in its sauce and stir in the garnishes.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 500; Fat (g): 30; Fat Calories (kcal): 270; Saturated Fat (g): 7; Protein (g): 48; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12; Carbohydrates (g): 8; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 8; Sodium (mg): 740; Cholesterol (mg): 160; Fiber (g): 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This is one of my favorite recipes of all time! This dish is effortless yet impressive company food and even easier and tastier if you make a day before. My six year-old also loves it. I have made it both with and without chickpeas and both versions are great-slightly heartier with chickpeas. My current version includes kalamata olives (I prefer them to oil cured) and chopped cilantro as a garnish. I make preserved lemons in the winter when lemons are at their peak (using another foolproof FC recipe) and when they are ready this is the recipe I look forward to making. One word of caution: the preserved lemons, olives and capers all add a fair amount of salt. Other than salting the chicken before browning it, don't add any salt until after you've added those final ingredients, and tasted it, or else it can get too salty.

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