This is an excellent way to prepare chicken legs, and although it takes a bit of finesse to do it properly, it's absolutely worth the effort. I debone the whole chicken leg in one piece, the drumstick and thigh together, being careful not to make any holes in the skin. I then sprinkle some rock salt on the skin-side of the legs, a marinade of paprika, garlic and olive oil on the flesh side, and place them in the fridge for around 6 hours. This curing of the skin makes it fantastically crisp when fried in a hot pan.
The garnish for this meal was, as is often the case for my weeknight meals, a combination of whatever I could find in my fridge. Button mushrooms, Jersey Royal potatoes and creme fraiche seemed like they would go together well, and I threw some fine quality Hungarian paprika into the mix too, for an extra punch of flavour and a vital bit of colour. Some crisp fried parsley leaves as a garnish, and the result was a delicious (and eye-catching) plate of food.
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 heaped teaspoons creme fraiche
- 2 whole chicken legs
- 100 g button mushrooms, cut in half
- 200 g Jersey Royal potatoes
- 2 large handfuls flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoon coarse rock salt
- 2 teaspoon fine quality Hungarian paprika
- 1 teaspoon butter
- sea salt and cracked black pepper
- vegetable oil, for frying
Firstly, prepare the chicken. Using a sharp boning knife, carefully remove the bones without breaking the skin. Also remove any gristle or sinew. Make a marinade with half of the paprika, half of the garlic and all of the extra virgin olive oil. It should be like a paste: add more paprika if it's too thin. Rub this into the meat of the chicken legs (not the skin) . Lay the chicken legs on a tray skin-side down and sprinkle the rock salt over. Place, uncovered, in the fridge for 6 hours.
Remove the chicken legs from the fridge and carefully wash off the salt from the skin, being careful not to wash the marinade from the other side. Dry the skin thoroughly, then set aside.
To cook the potatoes: put them in a pot, add a generous pinch of salt and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer very gently for about 15-20 minutes or until they are tender. Meanwhile, make the persillade: take half of the parsley leaves and finely chop them. Finely chop the rest of the garlic too, and mix with the finely chopped parsley. Set aside.
To make the crisp fried parsley: add enough vegetable oil to a small frying pan so that it's about 5mm deep, wait for it to heat up (probably 1-2 minutes), then add the parsley. Stir and fry until there are no more bubbles coming from them – this means the water content is almost zero and they will be crisp. Drain in a colander first, then a plate lined with kitchen paper to remove the excess oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt.
When the potatoes are a few minutes away from ready, cook the mushrooms: heat the butter in a frying pan, and when it is foaming, add the mushrooms. Cook until they are tender, then remove from the heat and set aside while you cook the chicken.
For cooking the chicken: heat a large, heavy-based pan or skillet over a high heat. The pan should be big enough to easily fit in both of the deboned chicken legs. Add about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and wait until it is hot (about 30 seconds), and then add the chicken, skin-side down. Press the chicken flat against the surface of the pan to ensure even contact, then turn the heat down to medium-high. Season the marinaded side of the chicken lightly with sea salt. Cook until the skin side is very golden and crisp, and the marinated side is about three-quarters cooked, then flip over and finish cooking on the marinated side for a few minutes. At this point, add the potatoes and persillade to the pan you cooked the mushrooms in and fry gently over a medium heat to cook out the garlic.
When the chicken is ready, carve it into strips. Serve on top of the potatoes and mushrooms, with a dollop of creme fraiche on the side, finally garnishing with a sprinkle of paprika and the crisp parsley leaves.