Recipe: Quick, Tasty Supper of Roast Chicken Legs with Squash, Spinach & Porcini
I declare January 2011 as the month of frugal food. Or at least frugal shopping for ingredients and using what’s in my cupboard. If there ever was a month that should be frugal and spartan, this is it. 2010 was brilliant, but wildly indulgent, I feel I need an honest return to the kitchen, and some fun as I play with the ingredients of my larder, and otherwise basic everyday ingredients.
One of my larder staples is dried mushrooms, particularly porcini (or ceps if you are French). They smell grim. All you rural types, they smell like grain feed for cattle and I will never forget finding my head next to a mouse nest in a grain feed store when young, so that smell fills me with fear and loathing. Like lots of things like prawn paste, they smell grim but taste great, when soaked for half an hour or so in hot water and that dustiness and farmyardiness is gone, they become supple and impart a depth of meaty, and of course, mushroomy flavour to any dish.
Chicken legs are cheap and massively underrated. Full of flavour and moist as the meat is right on the bone, lots of crispy chicken skin, and when roasted on top of some veg they impart lots of gorgeous chicken fat which adds a flounce to all flavours, a richness but not a greasiness. It’s not a whole chicken after all and there is a limited amount of fat, just the perfect amount for depth of flavour.
I love squash, although butternut squash I find the most bland, it is the most available, so on my first day back yesterday, seriously lacking in energy to go seeking out my favourite kabocha squash, I purchased a butternut. Roasting releases some of the water and increases the flavour, so I would always recommend roasting a butternut squash first. One small one would suffice.
I used whole cloves of garlic as I love the richness and nuttiness, the add lots of flavour to the dish, but popping them out of their skins and eating them imparts an intensity and distraction as you eat your dish. I love little touches like this, otherwise I find big dishes can get very dull. Perhaps I have ADHD! I do know that I like my food to be interesting and full flavoured.
The prep for this is quick, and the ingredients inexpensive, save the porcini mushrooms and pine nuts are a little splurge but they are worth it. The dish will do well without them if you don’t have them in your store cupboard. The chicken is perfectly moist and delicious, and for me doesn’t need a gravy or sauce, but you could make one from the porcini soaking water which would be great with it.
This recipe will serve 2.
Roast Chicken Legs with Squash, Spinach & Porcini
20g dried porcini
2 chicken legs
1 bag of baby spinach
6 cloves garlic, whole with skin on
20g pine nuts
400g butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes (roughly)
A little olive oil
Soak the porcini in enough boiling water to cover them for half an hour or so. Drain and chop finely. Save the porcini water for your next soup or stock.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius. Oil a baking dish big enough to hold both chicken legs, and deep enough to hold the veg. Add the squash, garlic and chopped porcini, toss with a little olive oil to coat, and season with salt and pepper.
Wash and dry the chicken legs and place on top. Drizzle some oil on the skin and rub in with some salt and pepper to season.
Roast for approx 50 minutes until the skin is crisp and brown. The chicken legs I used were very big, so keep an eye on them from about 40 minutes or so.
When they’re almost done, toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan over a high heat, watching them as they will burn very quickly and taste bitter. Add some oil to the same pan and wilt the spinach.
When the chicken is done, take the legs out and let them rest for a few minutes. Add the spinach to the squash mixture and leave for a few minutes in the oven.
Add the pine nuts, and serve with the chicken on top.