I know that fall is officially on its way when I start to roast chicken.
Even though I bake pretty consistently year round, I’d never dream of roasting a chicken in the summer. For some reason, that’s a cold-weather ritual, at least for me.
This roasted chicken/veggie combination makes a great, rustic autumn dinner.
The chicken is bursting with Provencal flavorsâ€”thyme, rosemary, and lavender. The skin gets nice and crispy. The meat is juicy, tender, and fragrant with herbs. The roasted root veggies are soft with slightly chewy edges. The sugar in the sweet potatoes caramelizes; the mushrooms add a deep earthiness; the red onions develop a sweet jamminess.
The whole thing tastes like Fall and makes me want to wear sweaters, go apple picking, and drink mulled wine.
Herb Roasted Chicken Leg Quarters
Roasted Root Vegetables
A note on the chicken
Start with nice, fat chicken leg quarters, as they’ll shrink a bit when cooked. McKinnon’s, my butcher, regularly sells them for about 79 cents a pound, so it’s a really economical way to feed a crowd. Serve with a romaine salad or crusty bread.
The chicken legs I bought were gloriously juicy. Keep an eye on them when they’re in the oven to be sure your pan doesn’t overflow and make a smoky mess.
If your legs do give off a lot of juice, save it! Whisk it together on the stove with a little butter and flour to make a rich sauce. Cook some rice with it. Skim off the fat and simmer it with some garlic, ginger, and chili flakes for a warming broth to chase away a budding cold.
A note on herbs
The herb measurements are approximate, depending on the size of your chicken legs. Basically, you want a generous sprinkle of each herb on each leg quarter. I used what I had on hand, which meant dried herbs. Fresh would be even better.
For the lavender, only use lavender meant specifically for cooking. (If it needs to be said, most craft-store or other lavender isn’t safe to eat.) Lots of places sell lavender for cooking, including Purple Haze Lavender Farm in Washington State. They also have a great primer on cooking with lavender.
Herb Roasted Chicken Legs
8 large chicken leg quarters
3 cloves garlic, mashed
2 Tbls. butter
2 Tbls. thyme, minced
2 Tbls. rosemary, minced
2 Tbls. parsley, minced
2 Tbls. dried lavender
fresh cracked pepper
half a lemon
1 medium red onion, cut into chunks
Serves 4-6 people.
Preheat your oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Spray lightly with oil and set aside. Depending on the size of your leg quarters, you might need to use two pans.
Prepare the chicken
Rinse the chicken leg quarters under cold water and pat dry. Salt both sides of the leg quarters generously and arrange on your baking sheet.
Add the butter & herbs
With your hands, rub the mashed garlic onto the chicken skin, making sure to get some on each leg quarter.
Cut the butter up into 8 pieces, and put one on top of each leg quarter.
Sprinkle on the thyme, rosemary, parsley, and lavender. Add fresh cracked pepper to taste.
Squeeze the half lemon over the chicken, getting a little lemon juice on each leg quarter. Nestle the chunks of red onion into the spaces between the leg quarters.
Your chicken is ready to go into the oven. It should look about like this.
Roast the chicken
Put the chicken in the oven. Roast at 375 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours, until the skin is brown and crispy and the juices run clear.
If you’re making the root veggies, begin to prepare them once you put the chicken in the oven.
Roasted Root Vegetables
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb. baby portabella mushrooms, stemmed and cut in half
1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large Italian frying pepper, sliced into rings
1/2 cayenne pepper, sliced into rings
1 medium red onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbls. rosemary, minced
1 tsp. dried lavender
1 lemon, cut into quarters
freshly cracked pepper
If not making the chicken, preheat the oven to 375. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with oil and set aside.
A note on ingredients
This dish is more chopping than cooking.
I used what I had on hand. You can just as easily toss in carrots, celery, turnips, or Brussels sprouts. The main thing is to cut all your veggies into fairly uniform chunks so they cook evenly.
Omit the cayenne pepper for a less spicy version.
Toss your veggies & bake away
Add the sweet potatoes, mushrooms, Yukon Gold potato, peppers, and onion to the baking dish.
Sprinkle with rosemary, lavender, and freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste.
Squeeze lemon quarters onto the veggies (do this over your hand or a strainer to catch any seeds). Add the squeezed wedges in with the veggies.
Add the olive oil and toss with clean hands to coat the veggies well.
Bake at 375 for about 1 1/4 hours, until the veggies are cooked through and nicely browned. Stir once or twice during cooking.