Like Coco Chanel removing one element of her outfit before stepping outside, sometimes you need to simplify a recipe before sending it into the world. When you’re developing, it’s easy to keep adding ingredients, but it’s much harder to take away. This braised chicken legs recipe gets rid of as many ingredients and techniques as possible without compromising on flavor. The secret to the simplicity lies in one crucial variable: Time spent in the oven.
An hour plus in the oven might sound like a long time for a weeknight but hear me out. Chicken legs are full of fat and connective tissue and benefit from long, slow cooking. In fact, I much prefer the braisey, shreddy texture they get when slowly cooked in liquid to the bouncy, cooked-but-still-not-fully-tender texture they have when part of a whole roasted chicken, where the cook time has to account for the danger of overcooking the breasts. So I took away as many barriers as I could and got this dish into the oven as quickly possible.
There is no searing or chopping. You frankly barely need a knife. The key is to just combine the coconut milk and curry paste (Maesri is our favorite brand) before adding the lemongrass (which is totally optional by the way), ginger (less optional), garlic (not optional). Then lay the seasoned chicken legs in the pan, turning them to coat them in the coconut milk, and get them in the oven.
As they roast, the luscious creaminess of the coconut milk and the chicken’s richness combine and reduce to create a dense, flavorful sauce that begs for rice or bread. Don’t be concerned if the coconut milk breaks and starts to look a bit oily; that may happen depending on the brand of milk you use, and honestly there is nothing more delicious in the world so well done, you.
Aside from spooning some of the juices over the chicken a couple times during baking, you’re free to go about your life while the chicken bakes. You will know it’s done when the leg joint flexes somewhat easily and the skin is nicely browned. Top it with cilantro, maybe a squeeze of lime and some toasted coconut chips (have you tried Dang brand coconut chips? They have earned that name IMHO). The best thing about this dish is that it tastes way more complicated than it actually is. If you don’t have an ingredient or forgot to add something don’t worry, Coco would be proud.
Easy, braisey, beautiful:
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