Let’s talk about sumac. Most people have never heard of the Middle Eastern spice, or if so, have rarely heard of it being used on anything other than kebab. It’s a shame too, because the flavor compliments so many other ingredients. Sumac has a tangy lemony flavor, but with a fruity, floral note as well. In this recipe, chicken legs are coated in a dry rub of salt, pepper, and sumac, then slow-roasted with onions, herbs, lemon, garlic, and fennel, all of which compliment each other in unexpected ways.
- 2 chicken legs (about 1.5 lbs), bone-in and skin-on
- 1/2 a fennel, sliced to form rings, stalks removed (reserve the green fronds)
- 1/2 a lemon, sliced thinly
- 2 tbsp lemon juice (from the remaining half of the lemon)
- 1 small garlic head, cut crosswise,
- 6 cipollini onions (or 2 shallots, each bulb cut in quarters)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp sumac, plus more for serving
- 8 sprigs thyme
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- salt and fresh ground pepper
Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Step 2: Pat dry the chicken and season each side with salt, freshly ground pepper and sumac. You’ll want to use about a teaspoon of salt per pound of chicken. Set in a skillet, skin-side up. (Note: it is important to use a skillet here, and not a deep pan, as the chicken will not turn golden in a deep pan).
Step 3: Arrange the onions, garlic, fennel, bay leaf, and five sprigs of thyme around and in between the chicken legs. Season the veggies with salt and pepper. Pour in the olive oil, lemon juice, and drizzle everything on top with a bit more olive oil.
Step 4: Cook in the oven for 60-65 minutes until the chicken has a light golden color – the chicken will not get super browned (that’s okay!).
Step 5: Serve chicken with its juices, along with thyme from the remaining 3 sprigs and finish off with more sumac.
(Note -the oil/chicken fat that you’re left with can and definitely should be kept. This is arguably the best part of the dish. Strain into a mason jar, keep in the refrigerator, and use as you would any other oil – it’s flavored with all the ingredients used and is gold! Do not waste it!)