This was the first time I’d cooked this meal, but the result was almost exactly how I wanted it to be. Bar the salsa verde, which, of course, you can make in advance (and I’d recommend that, not just to shave off evening prep time, but also to allow the flavours to get merry) – well, the rest is virtually child’s play. That’s if you let your kiddies play with knives. If you’d rather do the slicing yourself, then you really can throw the elements together in under ten minutes, whack the dish in the oven, and go outside to enjoy a glass of wine in the evening sun for thirty minutes or so whilst it all cooks itself to perfection. Now back to that ‘almost’ – it was all delicious, but almost sublime. I first discovered cooked celery as a side dish in its own right a few months ago, when I sat a whole chicken atop a load of celery sticks to roast. Really, that came about because I had a bunch of the stuff in the fridge that was a little past its prime, and I thought that having it in the pan with the roast would make for some excellently flavoured gravy. It did – but I also discovered the delight of roasted celery. The sticks softened down, giving up their juices, and then became sticky and caramelised. They were a revelation. So, I was hoping the same thing would happen here. It didn’t. The cooked celery was still good – but it didn’t brown at all (whereas as you can see, the leeks and endive took on some good caramelisation.) It was a bit of a shame, but I suppose the cooking time just wasn’t enough (the whole roast chicken would probably have been in the oven for about one and a half hours, whereas this only cooks for 40 minutes.) Next time I make this, I might try frying the celery beforehand to start off the cooking process, but that’ll have to be weather dependent, because at the moment, I’d rather be spending my evenings watching the sea with my love than standing over a hot stove…
The salsa verde worked brilliantly with both the veg and the chicken, but if it’s not your thing, the light jus is also full of flavour. But we’ve both been craving it for a while now, and as we had most of the ingredients on hand, I finally got round to making it. I made this version my own by adding balsamic, and I went easy on the olive oil, adding just a single tablespoon. But use as much of it as you like – most recipes I’ve seen call for much more.
For the salsa verde:
6 tbsp. finely chopped herbs (I used equal amounts of parsley, basil, and mint)
2 tbsp. capers, half of them roughly chopped
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. good quality olive oil
For the chicken:
2 chicken legs, skin on
2 endives, sliced in half lengthwise
8 baby leeks, roots trimmed and tough leaves removed
8 sticks of celery
4 cloves garlic, peeled and bashed
100ml white wine
1 large bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary
1 tsp. bouillon
Salt & pepper
For the salsa verde:
Simple: combine everything, then chill, covered, for at least a couple of hours! Remove from the fridge about twenty minutes before serving.
For the chicken:
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lay the prepared vegetables over the base of an oven dish (I put the celery and leeks in one layer, with the endive on top.) Scatter over the bashed garlic cloves.
Heat a dry metal saucepan, then pour in the wine (pouring it into a hot pan allows the alcohol to burn off faster.) Add the bay leaf and rosemary, and boil until the wine is reduced by half. Remove from the heat, stir in the bouillon, then pour over the veg. Tuck the bay and rosemary under the endives.
Season the vegetables, before placing the chicken legs on top, skin side up. Season, then roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven, until cooked with crispy skin.