This is a great way to cook a chicken leg that gets the best out of the skin by exploiting its crispy crunchy potential. I’m sure most of you will agree when I say the best part of a chicken is the crispy skin! The secret here is to lightly cure the chicken skin by sprinkling rock salt on it and leaving for about 8 hours. This draws moisture out of the skin, meaning that it goes amazingly crispy when you fry it, much the same as a confit duck leg. I make a simple spice rub with some olive oil, garlic and paprika and rub this into the flesh side. The result is amazing!
The butter bean stew is rustic and unfussy, reminiscent of a French cassoulet or a Spanish white bean stew. I’ve finished it with some fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Add a bottle of fresh white wine and you’ve got a perfect summer’s evening meal.
You’ll need to bone out the chicken leg, ideally with the skin intact, with no holes. It requires a bit of finesse. Alternatively, you could just use thighs instead, which are much easier.
- 2 large chicken legs, bones removed
- 1 tbsp coarse rock salt
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
- 50g pancetta, cut into chunky lardons
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 200g dried butter beans
- 500ml chicken stock
- 2 tsp worcester sauce
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 50g chorizo, diced
- 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 bunch basil, leaves picked
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- vegetable oil, for frying
Take the boned out chicken legs and score the flesh side several times. This will allow the flavour of the spice rub to penetrate effectively. Take one of the cloves of garlic and crush it to a paste. Place in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika. Mix to a thick paste, then add a generous pinch of sea salt and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well, then rub into the flesh side of the chicken legs. Place the legs on a plate, flesh side down, then sprinkle the rock salt evenly onto the skin side. Place in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight. Place the butter beans in a bowl and generously cover with cold water. Leave to soak, also for 8 hours or overnight.
For the butter bean stew, place a large heavy based pan or casserole dish over a medium/high heat and add a couple of glugs of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the lardons and fry until lightly caramelised, then add the diced carrots along with a pinch of salt. Continue to fry over a medium/high heat until the carrots are beginning to colour. Turn the heat down to low and add the onion and garlic. Cook gently, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. The onion should be nice and soft and starting to turn sweet. Drain the butter beans thoroughly and add to the pot with the vegetables, along with the chicken stock, the remaining 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika and the worcester sauce. Bring to the boil, then turn to a gentle simmer for about 1 hour, or until the beans are tender but not falling apart. They may take longer depending on how dry/old the beans are.
For the chicken, it’s a good idea to remove it from the fridge to wash the salt off and dry it about 30 minutes before you cook it. This will ensure the skin is really dry and ready to go, and it’ll also bring the meat up to temperature a bit, allowing for more even cooking. Wash the salt from the skin side of the chicken under a running tap, being careful not to wash off the paprika on the other side. Take some kitchen paper and pat the skin as dry as you can get it.
Get a large heavy based frying pan or skillet and place it over a high heat. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil and when it’s hot, add the chicken, skin side down. Don’t overcrowd the pan; if it’s too small, do it in batches. Press the chicken gently to ensure the skin is lying flat, and cook like this for about 20 seconds. Now turn the heat to medium/low. Cook for about 5 minutes like this, ensuring that the heat isn’t too high. You want the skin crispy, but not black! When you can see that the flesh side is about half cooked from beneath, flip the chicken and turn the heat right down. Cook for another 4 or 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
Finish the butter bean stew by adding the balsamic vinegar and diced chorizo and stir through. To serve, put a couple of ladlefuls of the stew into each bowl, then carve the chicken into strips. Divide between the bowls, and garnish with the basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.