My interest in Italian plums is entirely shallow. It’s not that they’re not delicious, Italian plums are, but they’re just so beautiful that I tend to forget about their other attributes. I think it’s their silvery bloom or maybe their shocking yellow interior or perhaps it’s because they’re purple and we all know how I feel about purple. Whatever the reason, they certainly have a hold on me. So, when I saw them at my local farmer’s market, I knew they had to be mine. Is it strange to have such strong feelings for a stone fruit? You don’t have to answer that – I know it is.
Once I got the plums home and got over gawking at them, I realized I had no plan for them. I only bring this up because this isn’t like me. I usually have meals through to next Thanksgiving figured out. Not because I’m super together or anything, it’s just that menu planning is my stress reliever. Last year I took my plums down the sweet route with this Chocolate Semolina Cake, but this year I wanted savory. And just like that, the idea for Marsala Braised Chicken Legs with Italian Plums & Pearl Onions walked into my head. Well, sort of.
Braising meat in booze is a favorite past time of mine. It’s a fall activity that I eagerly anticipate every year. Sure, we may *still* be in the middle of an oppressive heat wave, but my stomach doesn’t seem to understand that. I still want all my autumn favorites. Ugh! I know, I know. I am in a constant state of complaint about the weather. But in all seriousness, this unseasonable heat is wreaking havoc with my extremely well thought out (i.e. obsessive) meal plan…but that’s beside the point. The point is that heat wave or not my chicken needed booze. A bottle of something had to be invited to the party but what would that bottle be? This is me trying to build drama.
Do you ever get ideas that are completely embarrassing? Stupid question, everyone does (right?). But do you ever get ideas that are really good but they’re embarrassing because they’re obvious and it took you half a day to think of them? Yeah, my idea to use Marsala was one of those. Of course, the plums and marsala wine would play nicely – they’re both Italian! Add a little cinnamon to that wine and some juicy chicken legs and boom! The dish tastes twice as expensive as the sum of its parts. This was my hope and I like to think these Marsala Braised Chicken Legs realized that hope.
The method for braising is beyond simple, so it makes for an ideal weeknight supper fix. Basically, you sear your ingredients in a heavy pot. Deglaze said pot with a bunch-o-booze and pile everything back in. Put on a cover and pop it in the oven. And that’s about the it! Seriously, the simplicity of these Marsala Braised Chicken Legs almost makes me feel guilty. But only for snippets of minutes. This dish tastes like it took days and the labor of a small (cooking?) army. But no, just little ol’ me, 20 minutes or prep, 45 minutes of cooking – that’s it. Well, the cat provided moral support.
I’ve included a recipe for Buttered Hazelnut Farro but feel free to serve your Marsala Braised Chicken Legs on top of any carb you please. You do you. But if you feel like listening to me, may I suggest a particularly starchy base such as potatoes or a hearty grain. Heck! A crust of stale baguette would suffice. Anything to soak up the luscious sauce at the bottom of your bowl.
One last thing before I leave you, you can cook the braising liquid down to make a sort of gravy if you wish. I didn’t because I thought the chicken didn’t need it and I was, well, lazy. But if you have more fortitude than myself, you can make a simple roux and then add the pan juices to form a quick gravy. Just don’t forget to skim the fat or it’ll be greasy instead of velvety. Again, this is an extra credit assignment. These Marsala Braised Chicken Legs are perfectly excellent with or without saucy enhancements.
- 4 chicken legs, excess skin removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup red pearl onions, peeled & halved
- 1 cup marsala wine
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4-5 Italian plums, pitted & cut into wedges
- 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5-6 sprigs fresh tarragon, plus more for garnish
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cup farro
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- *I usually start cooking the farro 10 minutes after I put the chicken in the oven.
- Preheat the oven 375F.
- Pat chicken legs dry with paper towel and liberally season with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large french oven or braiser over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken, skin-side-down, and sear until light amber in colour. About 3-5 minutes.
- Turn the chicken and sear on the other side for roughly the same amount of time.
- Transfer the chicken from the pot and place on plate. Set aside.
- Add the pearl onions to the pan and saute until crispy but not quite cooked through. About 3 minutes. Transfer the onions to a plate.
- Add 1/2 of the Marsala wine to the pot, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan.
- Take the pan off of the heat and add the remaining wine, olive oil and chicken stock. Stir to combine.
- Nestle the chicken legs into the pot and top with the onions, plums and garlic.
- Fasten the tarragon into a bundle using butcher's twine and add it to the pot.
- Cover and place the pot in the oven. Let cook for 45 minutes.
- Remove the cover from the pot and switch on the broiler. Broil for 5 minutes or until the chicken is a deep amber color.
- Let the chicken cool for 10 minutes before serving on a bed of Buttered Hazelnut Farro. Top the chicken with additional fresh tarragon and a large spoonful of the braising liquid.
- Place water, farro, salt and olive oil in a pot. Stir to combine.
- Cover and place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 35-40 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed.
- Fluff the farro with a fork (it should still be a little wet) and replace the cover. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Add the butter, hazelnuts and tarragon to the farro and mix well with a fork. Serve immediately.