This is absolutely one of my favorite comfort dishes. I take free-range organic chicken legs, brown them very well and then slowly cook them in white wine, leeks and prunes soaked in grappa. I finish the dish by adding small potatoes and–-at the very end–-wilting in Swiss chard with lemon juice. The leeks and the prunes together create a very creamery sauce that is light and bright in flavor.
Ingredients (serves 4):
-4 free-range, organic chicken legs or drumettes
-1/2 bottle dry white wine, plus water
-3 large leeks, cleaned, sliced down the center and finely chopped
-1/2 cup prunes, soaked in grappa or vodka for 15 minutes
-2 bunches Swiss chard, bottom stems removed and chopped coarsely
-1/2 pound potatoes, chopped into 2 inch pieces
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Juice from 1 lemon
Place the chicken legs onto a platter and salt liberally on both sides. In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Place the chicken legs into the pot skin-side down and brown well on the one side. Once deep, dark golden brown remove to the platter. Reduce heat and discard any extra fat, reserving any nicely browned bits. Add 3 tablespoons of fresh olive oil and add the leeks to the pot. Salt the leeks so they begin to break down. Sweat them (do not brown) for 6-8 minutes until soft.
Place the chicken legs back into the pot, skin-side up. Increase heat to high. Pour in the prunes along with the grappa in which they soaked. Pour in enough white wine and water (use equal ratios) to almost cover the chicken legs taking care to allow the browned skin to remain above the liquid.
Bring to a boil and turn down the heat. Allow the alcohol to burn off (2-3 minutes). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer on the stove top for 45 minutes. Add the potatoes to the pot and push them down into the liquid. If necessary add a bit of water. Simmer until soft (15 minutes). Add all of the Swiss chard and lemon juice. Allow to “wilt” into the sauce. Use tongs to incorporate into the liquid. After 10 minutes the dish should be ready.
To plate place 1 chicken leg on each plate. Place a bit of chard and potatoes along with a piece of prune. Spoon sauce over plate and serve immediately with crusty bread.
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James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com