Blood Orange Roasted Chicken Legs
March is when I start to get impatient for warmer weather. The days are long enough that I want to be outside frolicking, but it is still just too cold for me. And windy. I long for leaves on the trees and flowers in the garden and long walks outside. Aside from the weather, what I really long for is fresh fruit and produce that hasn’t been shipped from halfway across the world. Red, ripe strawberries, plump blueberries, heavy peaches.
Oh, enough of my whining. Let’s think about the good things that we can get at the store at this time of year, the chief of which is citrus. Lots and lots of citrus. In fact, right now, we have 6 different kinds of citrus in the house: lemons are always here, juice oranges, mini clementines, huge mandarins, cara cara navels for eating, and blood oranges.
Blood oranges. What do you do with those? Well, I have made marmalade with them, and we occasionally have them in a salad. They are generally not very sweet so not great for eating as a piece of fruit. They add a terrific color and tartness to fresh squeezed juice when combined with other, sweeter juices.
This week, the blood oranges were out of this world fantastic when paired with roasted chicken.
I don’t know about you, but roasted chicken is one of those foods that I can eat and eat and eat and never get tired of. In fact, I tend to hover around the pan after dinner is over, picking off little pieces here and there and eating more. And if there are any chicken wings involved, you can be sure there won’t be any left by the time I am done putting the leftovers away.
This chicken dish is no exception. Actually, in a way, it’s even more delicious than your usual roast chicken because there is a pan sauce that just begs to be licked up and eaten. It feels like a crime not to wipe up every drop of sauce and consume it. The blood oranges brightens up the flavor without being too tart.
Of course, our favorite part of this dish (and any roast chicken dish) is the crispy chicken skin. This photo was taken just before we ripped all the chicken skin off to eat it while it was still crispy because chicken skin only stays crispy for so long and it would be a shame to let it get soggy.
This dish couldn’t be easier to make. It takes less than 10 minutes to prep and the rest is just roasting time. Now, if you are feeling the late winter blues, try making this dish. It might just make you appreciate the season. Until you go outside, that is.
Blood Orange Roasted Chicken Legs
Inspired by Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Of course, you can use any type and combination of chicken pieces here. I use legs because we prefer dark meat and it is cheaper. If you do use breasts, you’ll want to take them out of the oven about 10 minutes earlier to make sure they don’t get too dry.
If you cannot get blood oranges, any tart little orange will work here. Clementines, tangerines, and possibly meyer lemons would probably be good.
Also, a convection oven will help the sauce reduce in the pan while roasting, but if you do not have one, I include instructions in the recipe for what to do if your sauce is not saucy.
5 small-medium blood oranges
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup white wine
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon whole or cracked mustard seeds
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch wedges
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 fresh sprigs
4 whole chicken legs or about 3.5 pounds chicken pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the standard (not convection) oven to 475 degrees.
2. Squeeze the juice from two of the blood oranges into a medium bowl or 2 cup measuring cup. To the orange juice, add the lemon juice, white wine, mustard, mustard seeds, brown sugar, and olive oil. Whisk to combine.
3. Pat dry the chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Place in a 13 by 9 inch roasting pan with the onion. Pour the marinade over and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle the thyme over the dish or toss in the sprigs, if you have them. Slice the remaining three oranges thinly, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Scatter them in the pan, making sure most of the chicken skin is exposed. You can do this step up to 4 hours in advance. Just be sure to cover it and put it in the fridge if you are not cooking it right away.
4. Place pan in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. If you have a convection feature on your oven, you will use it after the initial roasting time. After the first 25 minutes are up, turn the convection feature on and reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Roast for another 15-20 minutes. Watch it carefully. I had a few too many things going on, so my oranges got a little burnt, but they are not there to be eaten really, just to add flavor, so I was ok with it. If you do not have a convection feature, just continue to roast at 475 until nicely browned.
5. This step is only if you feel your sauce is not thick enough, which might happen if you do not have a convection feature on your oven. Take out all the chicken and place in a serving dish or platter. Arrange the onions and orange slices decoratively around the chicken. If your oranges were overly dark, like mine, you can discard them, after gently squeezing out some of their juices. If your pan is stove top safe, place the pan on the burner over medium heat and simmer, stirring constantly until reduced and saucy. It should coat the back of your spoon. If your pan is not stove top safe, transfer all the sauce to a saucepan (try to get all the stuff stuck to the pan, too! There’s a lot of flavor there!) and simmer gently over medium heat until saucy.
6. Serve, eating all the crispy chicken skin first before it gets soggy. Serving it with bread will help you sop up every delicious drop of sauce.