Yes to Yummy

The Legs Make the Bird (Easy Weeknight Dinners)

May 4, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

I’ll admit it—I was once a chicken breast fanatic. I ate several ounces of that dry, tasteless white meat daily…and even with the amount of seasonings I’d put on it, boy, was it bland.

Since going Paleo, I almost always opt for the dark meat, which has more fat as well as vitamins and minerals. I love the juicy meat and crispy skin, then gnawing on the bones when I’m done.

Legs—both those of chickens and ducks—are also pretty easy to cook. All you need are some basic ingredients and a cast iron skillet! Although these dishes are a little time-consuming, most of the process is hands-off, so you can feel free to do other things while dinner cooks.

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For this first dish, Cinnamon Chicken with Cauliflower Couscous, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet and set aside.

Put your chicken legs in a large plastic bag and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon. Seal the bag and shake to distribute the spices. 

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of duck fat or refined coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the chicken skin-side down and cook until brown and crispy, about 8 to 10 minutes. If your pan is smaller, brown the chicken in two batches to prevent over-crowding. Place the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, skin-side up, and bake until just cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes longer.

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While the chicken cooks, add 1 large onion, chopped, to the remaining chicken fat in the cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until softening and light brown, about 6 to 7 minutes, then add 2/3 cup of chopped dried fruit. I used a combination of apricots, prunes, and dates, but you can also try figs, raisins, or even cranberries.

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Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, then add about 4 cups of riced cauliflower. (To make cauliflower with a couscous-like texture, process on high with about 1 teaspoon of water for approximately 15 to 20 seconds.)

Sprinkle the mixture with another 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ginger, 1 teaspoon of paprika, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then cook over medium-low heat for another 5 to 7 minutes.

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This next recipe, Crispy Duck Legs, is a great dish for those just beginning to cook with my favorite water fowl. Just be prepared for the amount of fat you’ll render: I got almost 2 cups out of 4 legs!

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and stick a cast iron skillet in there to get nice and hot. With a small, sharp knife, score the duck legs and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

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Remove the hot skillet from the oven and place on the stove top over medium-high heat. Add 2 of the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook until brown and crispy, about 6 to 8 minutes. Every 2 minutes or so, rotate the legs about 90 degrees so you’ll get even coverage.

Flip the duck legs over, cook for an additional 2 minutes, then remove to a cutting board. Follow the same procedure with the other 2 duck legs. Your goal is not to cook the duck legs through, but to crispify the outside.

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Pour off almost all of the accumulated duck fat, reserving 1 to 2 tablespoons in the skillet to saute the veggies. Add 1/2 of a chopped red onion, 1 chopped carrot, 3 stalks of chopped celery, and 1/2 of a chopped apple. Sprinkle with just a pinch of salt and cook until soft and golden, about 12 minutes.

Return all 4 duck legs to the pan and pour in between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of stock (I used my homemade duck stock). The liquid should cover the veggies but not submerge the legs.

Slide the skillet into the oven, and cook at 400 for 30 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue cooking until the duck legs reach at least 175 degrees, about 30 minutes longer.

Broil on low for an additional 3 minutes to get extra crispy skin.

I served up the duck legs alongside some roasted golden beets and a wild mushroom medley. To add simple bursts of flavor, try a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice or a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. If you have the time, a fruit-based sauce (like my cherry sauce) is excellent on top.

Have any suggestions for what I should cook next? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know! 


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