While cooking a whole chicken any day of the week doesn't happen like it used to, baking chicken legs is definitely a weeknight solution. A chicken leg, also called a hindquarter, is made up of one thigh and one drumstick that are joined together. The thigh is the upper part of the leg and the drumstick is the lower part. Both are dark meat. These whole chicken legs are inexpensive, versatile, meaty, and moist. Plan on one leg per person.
Tip: To reduce fat and calories, you can skin chicken legs. Bake the chicken with the skin on to keep it moist. Cool slightly and pull the skin off, starting at the thigh end. Have a kitchen shears or knife handy to snip off the skin if needed.
There's little that you have to do other than to place the chicken, skin side up, in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan or shallow roasting pan. Seasoning can be as simple a light brushing of olive oil and salt and pepper or a favorite spice rub.
To add a seasoning blend under the skin: Carefully slide your fingertips between the meat and skin of each chicken piece to loosen the skin from the meat. Finely shred the peel from 1 lemon and juice the lemon. In a small bowl combine the lemon peel and juice with 3 cloves garlic, minced; 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed; and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Spoon some of the mixture under the skin of each chicken piece and drizzle the rest on top of the pieces. Sprinkle each piece with a little salt, ground black pepper, and paprika.
Baking the Chicken:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the chicken, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink inside.
Tip: An accurate way to check chicken doneness is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the thigh, avoiding the bone. It should read 180°F when the chicken is done.
Tip: You can bake the chicken legs in a 375°F. oven, if desired. Increase the baking time to 45 to 50 minutes.
- Serve the chicken atop braised greens, mashed potatoes, lentils, or with mashed cauliflower seasoned with curry.
- Omit the seasonings under the skin and brush the skin with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the chicken after baking for 25 minutes and brush with barbecue sauce or other desired sauce. Continue to bake.
- For the fennel seed in the seasoning blend, substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano or thyme or 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary, Italian parsley, tarragon, or sage.
- For the lemon peel and juice in the seasoning blend, substitute orange or lime peel and juice.