How to cut up a chicken
You can buy just chicken legs or you can cut up a whole chicken yourself. With a little practice, you'll do a way better job of it than they do in the store and you'll have the option to keep the legs attached to the back bone as you see in the picture above. It's completely optional and will require a slightly bigger pan, but you'll get to enjoy the oysters (a little oval piece of meat right next to the back bone that is usually lost when legs are cut off). Some people believe it's the yummiest part of the chicken :)
2 whole chicken legs from a 4-5 Lb chicken (about 1 and 1/4 Lb)
1/2 garlic clove, grated on a microplane or mashed to a paste with a chef's knife
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion cut into wedges (about 1/2 inch wide)
4 peeled garlic cloves,
leaves from 7 sprigs of thyme,
1/4 lemon, cut into 4 pieces
Salt and black pepper
Salting (1-4 days before cooking):
Separate the skin from the top of the thighs and sprinkle chicken with salt on both sides and under the skin of the thighs being more generous in the thick parts and less near the tips of drum sticks. I use 1 tsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt per pound of chicken legs. You can adjust this amount to your liking and use other salts. Just remember that you'll need way less salt (about half) if using finely ground salt.
Place the legs in a zip lock back and refrigerate at least 24 hours or up to 4 days.
Drying the chicken (2 hours before cooking if possible):
Place between paper towels to dry very thoroughly then place in the fridge uncovered on a plate lined with paper towels for 2 hours before cooking. If you don't have 2 hours, you can cook right away.
- Preheat the oven to 450F with the rack in the middle.
- Rub the skin of the legs with mashed garlic clove (the skin should be covered with a thin film of garlic juice but no chunks). Melt 1 Tbsp butter and rub the skin with 1/3 of the butter (about 1 tsp) reserving the rest for later. Sprinkle the skin with fresh ground pepper.
- Set a 12 inch oven-proof skillet (not non-stick) over medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil. When the oil is hot (you'll see little ripples and waves in it), add chicken legs skin side up and transfer the skillet to the oven. If you don't have an oven proof skillet, you can do this in a baking dish that is large enough for about 3-4 chicken legs in one layer (you are only cooking 2, but will need extra space for veggies). Preheat the baking dish with oil in the oven until the oil is ripply and barely starting to smoke, 5-8 minutes.
- Roast the chicken for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss the onions, garlic cloves, thyme and lemons with a pinch of salt. Add to the skillet around the chicken (only add as many veggies as you need to cover exposed parts of the pan -- don't try to cram them all in). Baste the chicken with another tsp melted butter. Roast another 10 minutes and baste with remaining butter. Stir the veggies and rotate the pan 180 degrees. Roast until the chicken skin is starting to get golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Baste with the juices accumulating in the pan and stir the veggies. Roast until the skin is deep golden brown and the thickest part of the thigh registers 200F, 5-10 minutes. The total roasting time should be 40-50 minutes.
- Let the chicken rest 15 minutes and serve with veggies and juices from the pan.