I'm a big fan of chicken. People are always surprised when I say it's my favourite meat. I know so many people that go into paroxysms of pleasure about beef but for me it's chicken every time. It's cheap, delicious and endlessly versatile.
It is, in fact, the perfect meat, because it's such a diplomatic one: there is something for everyone. The fatty, dark and gamey underparts for the pickers and carnivores, or for the deviants like me who squirrel a carcass into the kitchen when no one's looking just to tear it apart with my fingers and gnaw at every brown and bendy bone. Then the pure, lily-white breasts for those far more dainty and delicate than I. The skin, the parson's nose and all the nobbly bits for the real fat-and-gristle-lovers like my dad. And then, of course, there's the stock you make afterwards. A chicken is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
Nothing makes me happier than finding a new chicken recipe. Especially if it involves another of my favourite ingredients, and one which is currently in abundance: figs.
This recipe, which is based on one I found in the Zuni Cafe cookbook, is delicious and unusual. I have always loved the combination of fruit and meat, and here it is at its best. The figs absorb the wine, vinegar and honey and become both syrupy-sweet and sharp, providing the perfect contrast to the salty meat. The end of summer/beginning of autumn perfectly captured on a plate.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 whole chicken legs
2 red onions
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
A handful of figs (6-8), halved
1 large glass of dry white wine
120 ml of chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 190.
Salt the chicken legs well (you can do this the night before and leave them in the fridge overnight, which is even better)
In a heavy saute pan brown the chicken legs in the little olive oil, making sure to get a good, even, golden colour all over.
Remove them from the pan and pour away any excess fat. Deglaze the pan with a little wine and then pour away any good brown meat juices and reserve them for later. Clean out the pan and begin again with some olive oil.
Slice the onion into wedges and saute them over a low heat in the oil. Add the rosemary and the bay. After ten minutes or so, when the onions are just starting to take colour, add the wine and the stock and bring to a simmer. Place the chicken legs, skin side up, on top of your bed of goodies, and then place the whole pan in the oven.
Cook the chicken for 40 minutes: the meat should be almost falling off the bone.
Mix the honey and the vinegar and add them, as well as the halved figs, to the pan. Cook uncovered in the oven for another ten to fifteen minutes.
Remove from the oven and, if the sauce is still a little loose, reduce it on the hob for a few minutes until it is syrupy.
Serve, with a bitter leaf salad .