Now, I know I’m not a particularly “normal” person. I’m definitely prone to a weird behavior or two. But now the question is, does the fact that I just roasted some chicken legs before I even made it into my office this morning make me certifiable? (No, I don’t actually want to know the answer to that)
Here’s what happened: I had taken some chicken legs out of my freezer a couple of days before. But, life and last minute dinner engagements left the defrosted chicken sitting, neglected and forlorn, on a shelf in the refrigerator (trust me, there’s nothing more forlorn than raw chicken perched in a refrigerator – except maybe old, withered carrots) until it reached a point where I was worried that, if I didn’t use it immediately, it would go bad. And I hate wasting food – I get all worked up about it, for some reason. However, I knew I was going to be at my office until late that night, and wouldn’t have enough time to cook it once I came home before I became so ravenous I would gnaw my arm off. The only reasonable solution, I determined, was to roast the chicken legs before heading in to work so that they would be quick to reheat that night. The craziest thing about the whole situation, really, was how incredibly easy it turned out to be. I only had to get up 5 minutes earlier than usual.
Roasting meat seems kind of intimidating. For example, there’s the entire stressful mythology surrounding the roasting of a Thanksgiving turkey. But, when it comes down to it, roasting is a rather simple procedure: turn oven to 400-425, put meat in oiled pan, add a little bit of liquid around it to help prevent it from drying out or smoking, and let it roast until it’s done (which is the semi tricky part since it varies for different types and cuts of meat). It is, indeed, harder with whole birds, since different parts of the bird roast at different rates, but still highly doable, I find. And something smaller like chicken legs is a piece of cake! Overall the best meats for roasting are those with a good amount of fat in them, or still have the skin on in the case of poultry, which keeps the meat moist as it cooks.
For preparing the chicken legs, I hauled myself out of bed 5 minutes early, turned the oven to 425 degrees, and while still in my pajamas took out the chicken legs and arranged them with the skin side up in one layer in a baking pan. I then liberally sprinkled the legs with salt and black pepper (I could have minced several cloves of fresh garlic and rubbed it on the skin with some olive oil, but that seemed too taxing to do before I’d had my cup of coffee), and a bit of dried thyme – one of my favorite all purpose spices. I happened to have a little red wine left in a bottle so I poured a very thin layer of this into the pan around the chicken, just a splash. If you have wine or beer, this adds great flavor, but a little water or chicken broth works just fine. You can also roast without any added liquid, if you prefer. I popped the chicken into the oven, showered, got dressed, made coffee, ate breakfast, etc. as the chicken roasted. I checked it very briefly twice and spooned some of the juices from the pan over the meat. By the time I was ready to leave 45 minutes later, the chicken was done! I pierced the thick part of the leg to check and make sure (the meat should be white-ish or brown-ish, not pink and raw looking, and the juice that runs out should be clear).
The only minor problem with the procedure was that I had to pop the still warm chicken into the refrigerator, instead of having time to cool it first, which is a bit of a waste of energy. If I had been French I would have just left it out at room temperature, but I have, unfortunately, taken a few too many food safety classes to feel comfortable with that. At any rate, it worked fine to refrigerate them, and when I got home, I popped them into the oven at 400 again for about 10-15 minutes while I made some mashed potatoes and broccoli. Voila dinner!