My friend Rebecca Cantrell is a wonderful cook, and this week’s recipe is based on one she serves often. She uses inexpensive chicken leg quarters to create something beyond delicious. The secret is a garlic and fresh herb mixture that she spreads under the skin of the chicken before roasting. The spice paste gives both the skin and the meat amazing flavor.
Rebecca’s paste is a combination of fresh basil, rosemary and thyme, which she grows in her herb garden. However, don’t feel like you need to purchase three packets of fresh herbs if you don’t grow your own.
Substitute four tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley for the fresh herbs and then chop it together with a teaspoon or two of dried rosemary, two teaspoons of dried basil leaves and two teaspoons of dried thyme. The parsley gives the paste a fresh flavor.
Spreading the paste beneath the skin is easy once you get the hang of it. The only tools you need to get the job done are your clean hands.
I’ve added an additional flavor-boosting step to Rebecca’s recipe, placing lemon slices in the bottom of my baking dish to add some lemony flavor to the chicken.
The added bonus is that juices from the lemons combine with the drippings from the chicken that, once strained, becomes a luscious sauce. All it needs is a little salt and pepper and then the sauce can be served on the side, drizzled over the chicken or spooned over plain cooked white rice, which is my favorite way to use the sauce.
Add a steamed green vegetable to complete your menu.
HERBED LEG QUARTERS2 lemons, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 teaspoons minced garlic, about 2 large cloves
1 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher salt or sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 teaspoons dried thyme
4-6 chicken leg quarters
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a roasting pan or 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place a single layer of the lemon slices in the bottom of the pan and set aside.
Combine the remaining ingredients except the chicken in a bowl and stir to combine. Loosen the skin on the leg quarters and spread some of the herb mixture under the skin. Place the leg quarters on top of the lemon slices and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the juices run clear and the skin is crispy and golden brown. (The internal temperature should reach 175-180 degrees.)