Roast

Tender Chicken Legs With Schmaltzy Croutons

October 26, 2021
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Photo by Bette Blau Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi
Author Notes

Is it really Thanksgiving without turkey? Yes. As I planned my $30 Thanksgiving Menu—six people, multiple dishes, all in $30—it didn't take long to realize that the signature bird would gobble up most of my budget. As would a whole chicken of any decent quality. Chicken leg quarters (aka whole chicken legs, $13), however, are one of the cheapest cuts of chicken per pound considering the ratio of edible meat to bone (and wow, are they good—I find them more tender and juicy than just drumsticks or thighs).

To channel those classic Turkey Day vibes, the chicken is roasted with onion and garlic ($1.25—plus fresh herbs if you’d like). Scoop everything but the rendered schmaltz (free flavor and fat!) off the sheet pan, then toss those with torn bread and bake again before tossing in smashed roasted garlic ($2). The chicken-fatty croutons echo stuffing—if stuffing was chill and relaxing and never stressed out anyone. Does it look like the traditional bird? Nope. But after a bite, I promise you won’t care. —Rebecca Firkser

Test Kitchen Notes

$30 Thanksgiving Menu
Tender Chicken Legs With Schmaltzy Croutons
Blistered Green Beans & Sweet Potatoes With Tahini
Apple-Cranberry Cornbread Biscuit Cobbler

Nickel & Dine is a budget column by Rebecca Firkser, assigning editor at Food52. Rebecca usually shares an easy, flavor-packed recipe that feeds four for $10 or less—this is a special edition: a $30 Thanksgiving for six. —The Editors

  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Ingredients
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 chicken leg quarters (aka whole chicken legs, about 2½ pounds total)
  • 1 medium red onion, unpeeled and quartered through the root end
  • 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
  • 1 large lemon, sliced into wheels, seeds removed
  • 1 handful thyme or oregano sprigs (optional)
  • 1/3 cup cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 ounces crusty bread, such as country-style miche, baguette, or ciabatta, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • Mild chile flake, such as Aleppo pepper or gochugaru, for serving (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, combine 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Spread out the chicken on a sheet pan, pat it dry with paper towels, and season all over with the salt and pepper mixture. If time is on your side, dry-brine by refrigerating the chicken, uncovered, for up to 24 hours.
  2. If the chicken has brined overnight, remove it from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before roasting (and if it’s released any liquid, sop it up with paper towels). When you’re ready to roast, heat the oven to 325ºF. Arrange the onion, garlic, lemon, and herbs if using around and under the chicken and drizzle all over with the olive oil.
  3. Roast the chicken, skin-side up, for 40 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, tilt slightly, and use a spoon to scoop up some of the rendered fat to baste the chicken pieces, onion, garlic, and lemon. Rotate the pan and bake for an additional 35 to 45 minutes, until the chicken is super-tender, golden brown, and registers at least 160ºF on a thermometer.
  4. Increase the oven heat to 425ºF and roast for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the chicken skin gets a bit more golden—this is just for looks, but it’s worth it. Transfer the chicken, onions, and lemon to a clean sheet pan and the garlic to a cutting board. Squeeze all the roasted garlic cloves out of the skin, smash the cloves with the side of a knife. Discard the skin and hang onto this garlic paste.
  5. Toss the torn bread in the rendered chicken fat. Roast, tossing halfway through, until crispy and golden, about 10 to 15 minutes. Toss the croutons with the reserved garlic paste and season with salt and pepper to taste (if it’s helpful, you can transfer to a large bowl and toss in there).
  6. If you’d like, you can transfer the chicken to a cutting board and cut the legs at the joint to separate the thighs and drumsticks. Arrange the chicken, croutons, onion, and lemon on a large serving platter.

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Rebecca Firkser is the assigning editor at Food52. She used to wear many hats in the food media world: food writer, editor, assistant food stylist, recipe tester (sometimes in the F52 test kitchen!), recipe developer. These days, you can keep your eye out for her monthly budget recipe column, Nickel & Dine. Rebecca tests all recipes with Diamond Crystal kosher salt. Follow her on Instagram @rebeccafirkser.

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