Crispy chicken legs with charred beans, red currants and corn cream

You know those times when you're making dinner for yourself--just you and no one else--and you get to decide what sounds good? When there's no suggestion offered up to make your eyes roll? When it's just you who will consume the result, so it doesn't matter if the meal doesn't turn out as expected? That can remain a secret, if you choose, or maybe the dish will be one that you archive in your private collection of recipes, for the occasions when you're alone and cooking for yourself. I suspect most passionate cooks keep similar secret archives.

I have a confession: I'm a closet chicken leg fan. It's one of those foods I tend to eat alone since my wife and small daughter favor vegetarian fare. (If you've looked through the recipes on this site, you know that that I too hold vegetarian fare in high regard.) However, you'll also notice that I slip the 'C' (chicken) and 'P' (pork) words in occasionally.  Consider this another from my private 'C' stash. Chicken legs, complete with crispy skin, juicy meat, and natural handles on either end. No utensils required should you choose to eat it when no one's watching. 

Maybe because it's mid-summer, I found myself thinking that corn and fresh red currants would be really good together. Oregon's Willamette Valley has the ideal climate for growing currants, a specialty fruit with a short season.  Red, black and white (or champagne) are the common varieties, all ripening between early and late July. (I have champagne currants in my front yard, waiting for another dish.) I had beans too, but I wasn't in the mood to blanch and reheat them, so I charred them in a piping hot pan, for added texture and deeper flavor. Or you could accuse me of being lazy. Cherries go well with beans are are more widely available if you've missed the fleeting currant season.

There's no need to make a pan sauce, since the juice of the currants and the cream from the corn combine to cover the bottom of the plate. All that's left is to bake the chicken at high heat, for a crispy golden brown skin, and sit in the summer twilight, enjoying the combination of summer flavors on your plate, possibly by yourself. 

makes 4 servings


4 whole chicken legs, bone in

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cobs corn, kernels removed, or 2 cups frozen corn

1 cup heavy cream

Juice of one lemon, divided

1 pound green beans, trimmed

1 cup fresh currants, stemmed, or 1 cup fresh cherries, pitted

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons minced chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, rub the chicken legs 2 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt. Place the legs on a rack over a flat pan if available, or directly on the pan. Put the pan in the oven and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until they have browned nicely and are crispy. The oven temperature is a bit high, so be sure to keep an eye on the chicken legs as they cook. 

Place the corn and cream in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water and a pinch of salt. Bring the liquid to a simmer and continue to cook for 10 minutes, until the corn is soft. Add the juice of half a lemon and transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender.  Puree until smooth and set aside.

Heat a pan for the beans over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and raise the heat to high. When the oil is hot, add the beans and season with salt. Cook the beans, shaking the pan occasionally until they start to char and wilt. After one minute, add the currants; they will give off some juice and blister, as will the cherries if you use those instead. Allow the juice to flavor the beans a bit before finishing the sauce with the butter and turning off the heat.

Remove the chicken legs from the oven and allow them to rest on the rack or pan for 5 minutes.

To serve, add the chives to the pureed corn before spooning it onto each plate or a large platter. Place the spoon the chicken on the corn cream and lay the beans and currants, and some of their juices, on top.