I was walking past my local fruit market on the way home from the bank, I wasn’t in need of anything and planned on just breezing by, but then I saw them: gorgeous little golden tomatoes all huddled together looking positively like the physical manifestation of happiness. I pounced. Just next to that was an even bigger basket of tomatoes like a United Colours of Beneton add – purple egg shapes, yellow golden nuggets, orange droplets, and ruby plums of sweet juiciness. They are a beacon of summer and none too soon.
Right away I knew this medley was meant for a special recipe that I have come back to numerous times for its simple, quick assembly and consistent beautiful taste: Jamie Oliver‘s tender and crisp chicken legs with sweet tomatoes. This recipe has minimal ingredients and is simply thrown in a roasting dish, tossed with olive oil, and baked to a bubbly, sweet perfection. It’s a leave-alone dish and when it’s finished it will feel like you’re eating a meal that was lovingly slaved over.
Jamie is a hero of mine for his unending energy and passion for cooking. He is making food accessible to an audience that has lost its cooking way while placing emphasis on local foods, ethical ingredients and good nutrition. His “Cook With Jamie” was what propelled me to want to learn more about cuts of meat and flavour combinations. He is a tornado of cooking joy and his affection oozes onto the pages of his books. Plus, he’s just plain fun – check out Sobey’s and Jamie Oliver commercial for proof.
JAMIE OLIVER’S TENDER AND CRISP CHICKEN LEGS WITH SWEET TOMATOES
This recipe is great for a total beginner – it’ll make you look like a super star chef. I have added a few ingredients – mainly olives for a little salty kick – but I made sure to keep its essence in tact. We use this recipe at the cottage when there are card games and camp fires to tend to, but we still want to eat well. We also made this over pasta for our first New Year’s Eve in our home, more time for wine and convivial conversations and less time supervising the stove.
4 chicken legs, jointed or 8 chicken thighs
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bunch of basil, well washed, leaves picked and tender part of the stalks finely chopped
a few big handfuls of assorted tomatoes, look for different sizes and colours, larger tomatoes halved or quartered
1 handful of kalamata olives, pitted and halved
3 tbsp capers, rinsed
1 bulb of garlic, broken into cloves with the papery skin left on
1 -2 fresh chilli(s), seeded and finely chopped or a few pinches of dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Preheat your oven to 350 F. Liberally season your chicken all over and fit them in a baking dish or pan where they will lay flat and snug together. Scatter all your remaining veg, herb and balsamic over the chicken and mix around. I like to make sure the basil gets underneath it all so it doesn’t burn. Drizzle with olive oil and push everything under the chicken so it sits on top to brown.
Place in the oven for 1 1/2 hours taking out halfway through to mix around, returning the chicken to the top. It’s done when the skin is nice and crisp and the meat is falling from the bone.
Serve your chicken family style and on the bone, spooning some juices over – or – remove from the bone and shred into large chunks with one of the following:
pasta – fresh linguine is great here but any will do
a few handfuls of new potatoes, scrubbed and halved if larger than a golf ball – thrown in with the chicken before baking
1 can of white kidney beans thrown in before baking
1 baguette – to sop up the golden juices
garlicky mashed potatoes