Anything with ‘8 hour‘ in the title is certain to come off as being a bit onerous, but I can assure you that this four-hundred-and-eighty-minute dish is anything but.
In fact — au contraire. The most difficult part of this recipe is remembering where you stashed the crock-pot (under the camping equipment perhaps?), dusting it off, and hauling it up the basement steps.
Of course this recipe is going to be of no help to you if it is three o’clock already and you are frantically searching the interwebs for something to serve tonight; something delicious to keep the hungry masses sated and jolly when the dinner hour rolls around.
Nope. I’m afraid this right here just ain’t gonna be the thing to keep dissension out of your ranks tonight. (But thank goodness it’s keeping it out of mine!)
However tomorrow is a new day as the expression goes, and a day that I think is finely-suited for 8 hour chicken legs cooked low and slow till the meat is tender and juicy and literally falls off the bone without so much as a stern look.
I’ve not included many (and by many, I mean any) slow-cooker recipes on this blog, and admittedly that’s not for any good reason. I suppose mostly it’s because despite the fact that slow-cookers are known to be the busy (or lazy) cook’s best friend, it never dawns on me to start cooking dinner while I’m still rinsing out cereal bowls or wiping up waffle batter. What I mean is that you need to have some patience; the foresight to start chopping and searing things for a meal you won’t eat till the sun goes down while you’re still draining the last few precious drops out of your coffee mug.
But once you plan for it, the simplicity of the entire process cannot be beat. The beauty of a slow-cooker, over just a heavy Dutch oven braising on the stove (or in the oven) is threefold: you can leave it unattended, you can set the timer to ensure you don’t forget about it, and after the meal is cooked, the machine will automatically switch to a WARM setting to keep your dinner toasty while you go about the rest of your life. Though I mostly turn to my Dutch oven for long braises like this, those three things right there finally got me to pull out the slow-cooker we received for our wedding (thank you JJ & Nancy!), and I’ve used it three times already in the past week.
Where has this thing been all my life? This chicken was amazing, and so easy – it’s almost embarrassing to take credit for the results. Meaty chicken legs, which have more fat than breasts and thus lend themselves better to a long braise, are gently simmered with garlic, fresh lemon, herbs, and a splash of broth, which you simply chuck all into the pot at the same time. Then – you press START, and let the shiney little machine know that you’d like it to cook on LOW for 8:00 hours thankyouverymuch.
As the pot heats, the house fills with the most divine chickeny-lemon-and-garlic smell, and the little LCD screen reassuringly pats me on the back and lets me know just how much time is left until we can devour it’s lovely contents. The chicken legs emerge so tender, it’s difficult to lift them out of the pot with tongs, lest the meat slides right off the bone. A strain of the broth and a stir in of creme fraiche renders the braising liquid smooth and silken, and it is perfect spooned over the unctuous legs. With a bit of couscous, some rice, or even a couple of fat slices of good crusty bread, this meal completely belies the fact that you actually only just chucked a bunch of things in a pot. And walked away.
8 Hour Chicken Legs with Lemon & Herbs
Serves 3 (makes 6 legs)
Despite the fact this takes 8 hours, it couldn’t be more simple. The epitome of ‘set it and forget it,’ you effectively toss everything into the slowcooker and then it’s hands off for the next 8 hours. Perfect for putting together in the morning, and coming home to a nice delicious warm dinner in the evening.
This is great served over plain couscous, brown rice, or quinoa. The sauce is fairly thin, and suits itself well to being poured over a grain or rice.
I made this in a slowcooker, which I think to be the easiest way to have something cooking for 8 hours. A quick Google search returned this page, which equates the LOW setting on a slowcooker to be about 200F. If you wanted to give this a shot using a large Dutch oven and braising in your oven (vs using a slowcooker), I would cook it at 200F for the full 8 hours, or slightly higher (say, 250-275) for a bit less time (say 6-7 hours). I can’t vouch whether or not the results would be the same….but if you try it, let me know!
6 skin-on bone-in chicken legs
2 lemons, cut into quarters
1 white onion, peeled and cut into wedges
1 large head (or 2 small) garlic, cut in half widthwise (no need to peel)
2 stalks rosemary
small bunch thyme (4-5 stems)
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp creme fraiche
tools: slowcooker (crockpot), strainer
Season the chicken legs generously with salt & fresh pepper.
Heat the olive oil in large heavy skillet over high heat, and sear the chicken legs evenly on both sides, until the skin is golden brown and crisped. You will most likely need to do this in batches (I did 2 batches of 3 legs) to avoid crowding the pan (which will hinder the browning process). Do not skimp on this step – the browning will give the legs a ton of flavor that will keep even through the long braise.
While the chicken browns, arrange the cut garlic, cut lemons, and cut onion into the bottom of the slowcooker. On top, nestle the fresh rosemary and thyme into the pot – no need to strip the leaves from the stems or chop the herbs at all.
When the chicken is golden and crisped on the outside, arrange the legs on top of the herbs, vegetables, and lemons. Gently pour the broth over the chicken legs, and place the lid on the cooker.
Cook on the LOW setting for 8 hours.
After 8 hours, remove the lid of the cooker, and turn the cooker off. Reserve the legs on a plate to the side – be careful lifting them out; they will be extremely delicate and tender. Strain the remaining liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, and discard the solids (the lemon, garlic, onion, and herbs). Whisk the creme fraiche into the strained broth, and taste & adjust sauce for seasoning (add salt & pepper if necessary to your liking).
To serve, arrange the legs in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Drizzle a few tablespoons of sauce atop, and serve immediately.