Braised Chicken Legs with Green Olives and Lime Gremolata by Maria Zizka

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There’s a culinary rule that I am breaking in this recipe: Traditionally, wine is used in a braising liquid, but I use sherry vinegar instead. One day I was braising chicken and didn’t have any wine. I did have vinegar, so I just diluted it with water and used it in place of the wine. In the end, I loved how the finished braise tasted more dynamic and zingy than usual. It goes to show that most recipes can be successfully modified to use the ingredients you have on hand—and you might even prefer the results.

SERVES 4

COUSCOUS

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs (thigh and drumstick together)

  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced

  • 6 garlic cloves: 4 sliced, 2 finely chopped

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) sherry vinegar, plus more if needed

  • ¾ cup (180 ml) water

  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 tomato, quartered

  • ½ cup (70 g) pitted Castelvetrano olives

  • 2 ½ cups (600 ml) chicken broth

  • Zest of 3 limes

  • ½ bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pat the chicken dry—it must be completely dry to brown properly. Generously season with salt and pepper on all sides.

  2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and the chicken legs, skin-side down. Cook, without moving the chicken, until dark golden brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for a few more minutes, until browned. (The chicken will not be cooked all the way through yet.) Transfer the chicken to a plate.

  3. Reduce the heat under the Dutch oven to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden in a few places, about 3 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Pour in the vinegar and water and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Return the chicken legs to the pot, skin-side up. Tuck the thyme, tomato, and olives around the chicken. Pour in enough broth to come three-quarters of the way up the sides of the chicken legs (just the dark golden brown skin should be poking out of the broth—you may not need to use all of the broth). Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover the pot with the lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the chicken is very tender, about 45 minutes.

  4. Carefully pour the braising liquid into a bowl. (It’s okay if you don’t get every last drop.) Set aside for about 5 minutes to allow the fat to rise to the surface, then use a spoon to skim off the fat. Taste a spoonful of the liquid. If it tastes a little flat, add a pinch of salt and a splash of vinegar. Return the braising liquid to the pot, reuniting it with the chicken, and keep warm over low heat.

  5. The chicken skin will have lost its crispness during the braise. If you want, you can recrisp it by placing just the chicken legs under the broiler for a few minutes. Afterward, return them to the pot.

  6. Just before serving, in a small bowl, stir together the lime zest, parsley, and remaining finely chopped garlic for the gremolata.

  7. To serve, place 1 chicken leg in each of four shallow bowls, spoon some braising liquid and olives around the chicken, and sprinkle the gremolata over the chicken.

Not-So-Traditional Gremolata: Gremolata is a mixture of finely chopped lemon zest, garlic, and parsley. Sprinkled over braised meat, it enlivens all the flavors and adds a pop of freshness. Swapping lime for the lemon might not be traditional, but I love the way lime works with the green olives in this dish. In addition to their matching colors, the two ingredients also have complementary verdant flavors.

How to Thicken the Sauce: If you’d like the sauce that’s served to be thicker and more like gravy, cook 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring continuously for 2 minutes, then pour in the skimmed braising liquid, bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened.

Excerpted from The Newlywed Table by Maria Zizka (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019.

Brian Stewartrecipe, maria zizka