Whole Chicken Legs with White Beans

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When fatigued on a darkening winter Sunday afternoon in London, it can sometimes seem a great trial to settle upon what to cook (when a roast is not required). All apart from those irritatingly small versions of supermarkets are closed, and there is an ever-diminishing possibility of finding decent meat. Yesterday there were at least 30 minutes of vacillating between differing options while en route to one of those frustrating mini-me grocers. Thankfully, all had not yet been seized by disorganised Sundaying Londoners: indeed, some nice-looking free-range chicken legs still remained.

A gentle pot-roasted dish was the final outcome of this venture.

It is worth taking care over the preparation of the vegetables so that no piece is larger than the white beans – this gives the dish a minor degree of finesse. 

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

4 whole chicken legs (with thigh and drumstick still attached, or a mixture of either)

4 rashers of smoked bacon, snipped into 1cm chunks

2 x 400g tins of small-ish white beans, drained and rinsed (e.g. haricot)

4 carrots, chopped finely (ideally, no piece larger than one of the beans)

the white heart of 1 celery, chopped finely (ideally, no piece  larger than one of the beans)

2 leeks, cleaned (which is done by slitting with a knife in half a few inches into the white and rinsing well) and chopped finely 

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

1 sprig, thyme (optional)

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons, finely chopped curly parsley

1 glass, white wine

1 tablespoon, wine vinegar (not balsamic) or a squeeze of lemon juice

How to make:

Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.

Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed casserole. Place the legs skin side down and fry until browned then turn over and seal the other side on a high heat. Do this in batches if you cannot fit all of the chicken in with its skin touching the bottom. You want some caramelisation of the skin for flavour. 

Set aside.

Turn the heat down and add the carrots, bay leaves and celery and bacon. Cook for around 5 minutes, stirring every now and again – you don’t want it to brown, just to soften and reduce in volume. Then add the leeks, garlic and the thyme and cook for a further few minutes until they are softening. Return the chicken to rest on top of this mixture and cook with a lid on for 20 minutes on a medium heat. Then add a glass of wine and cook for a further 5 minutes. Then add the beans and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes. Check the chicken is cooked by cutting to the bone with a knife.

Remove the chicken and leave covered somewhere warm.

Reduce the bean mixture for 5 minutes or so on a low heat (you can leave this stage out if you want). Then season with salt and pepper and add the tablespoon of vinegar. Stir in the parsley. Make sure you are completely happy with the seasoning – big dishes of beans like this can need more salt than you think – though don’t make it inedible!

Serve the chicken with a large spoon of beans and juice, and a green salad with a mustardy dressing (1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons, olive oil, salt and pepper – mix well).

Eaten with:

Salad and white wine. Followed by baked banana with whipped cream and molasses and the delightful luxury of a deep amber dessert wine 

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