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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Place a rack in top third of oven; preheat to 400°. Stir coconut milk and curry paste in a 2-qt. baking dish to combine (or, use a medium skillet if that’s what you’ve got). Add lemongrass, ginger, and garlic. Season chicken with salt (hold back a bit since curry pastes often have a lot of salt). Place in baking dish and spoon some liquid over. Bake, occasionally spooning liquid over, until chicken is browned, tender, and cooked throughout (the joint should be reasonably easy to flex), 60–75 minutes.
If you know me, you know I have mixed feelings about mornings. Sure, sure, a steaming mug and a scenic sunrise is quaint, but I’d rather spend those 30 minutes tangled in my warm sheets instead. Never have I ever had one of those idyllic coffee commercial moments where I gleefully spring out of bed before my alarm, just to sit at the kitchen counter by myself at 6 a.m. BUT, I will always hop out of bed for muffins. Moist, fluffy, pillowy muffins. And this brand new recipe for butternut squash, coconut, and ginger morning glory muffins from senior food editor Anna Stockwell is no exception. If you weren’t a morning person before, trust: these muffins will get you.
Normally, morning glory muffins are chock full of grated carrots (and maybe some raisins for pizzazz), but this new riff exponentially increases the cozy factor with doses of nutty coconut, fresh squash, and a bright ginger zing. I already know what you’re thinking: “Vegetables? In the morning?!” To which I’d respond, “Have you seen the dazzling brown sugar crystalline crust!?”
It helps too that they come together so easily you could make them half asleep. And let’s be real, we know you will be. But after just 30-ish minutes in the oven (i.e. the amount of time you spend staring into space in the shower), you can be chowing down on a batch of muffins so satisfying, you’ll question why you ever hated mornings in the first place.
Get the recipe:
Okay, this is going to seem a little bit out there, but trust us: It works. Place a cold, dry large Dutch oven on the stove—no heat yet! Nestle all of your chicken thighs in there, skin side down, so that there is as much skin-to-pan contact as possible (it’s fine if they’re crowded together). Then turn the heat under the pan to medium. As the pan becomes hotter and hotter, the skin will start to release some of its fat and then get extra crispy and brown, a process that will probably take around 15-20 minutes. (Try not to fuss with the thighs too much while this is happening, just let them be. This is a good time to do some of the prep work outlined in the next few steps.) When the skin is deeply browned—we’re only cooking the skin side right now—use tongs to transfer the thighs skin side up to a plate. Turn off the heat under the Dutch oven, but reserve it—we’re going to build our braise in it, and we want all of that fat and any browned, stuck-on bits, which will lend richness and flavor to the finished dish.