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Eric Akis: Aromatic local garlic adds flavour to roast chicken dish

If you love cooking with fresh garlic, and you’ve not grown your own, now and well into fall is a great time to be buying it, locally grown. Farm stands, farm markets and smaller food stores specializing in local produce will all be selling it.
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Juicy, aromatic and plump chicken legs are flavoured with thinly sliced garlic, fresh sage leaves and lemon zest and juice in this simple but delicious dish. ERIC AKIS

If you love cooking with fresh garlic, and you’ve not grown your own, now and well into fall is a great time to be buying it, locally grown. Farm stands, farm markets and smaller food stores specializing in local produce will all be selling it.

When you shop for that garlic you’ll find a range of different types for sale, each with their own distinct qualities the people selling it should be able to describe to you.

One of those types I often see for sale at farm markets at this time of year is called red Russian garlic. It’s a variety first brought to North America by Doukhobor Russian immigrants in the early 1900’s that proved to be well suited to growing conditions found in various part of B.C.

It has a large, purplish-skinned bulb with large, easy to peel cloves. When eaten raw it has some heat to it, why I like to use it to kick up the flavour of such things as caesar salad. When cooked, it offers a warm, rich and pleasing garlic flavour, making it perfect to use in a range of dishes, including today’s chicken recipe.

To make it, the skin on large, plump chicken legs was lifted up from the flesh and thin slices of garlic and fresh sage leaves were slid underneath it. The skin was then set back in place, the chicken was set in a pan, brushed with a mix of olive oil and lemon zest and juice, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, and then roasted until golden, garlicky, herbaceous and delicious.

I used some chicken stock to make a simple sauce for the chicken and also served it with a mix of Vancouver Island grown produce. The latter included some small potatoes, green beans and a colourful mix of cauliflower florets I found for sale at Dan’s Farm and Country Market (dansfarm.ca) in Saanichton.

You can, of course, use other types of garlic in the chicken recipe. And, when buying any type of garlic, opt for bulbs that are firm and tight-skinned. If you bought a whack of garlic, store it in a dry, dark, cool room temperature place in a well-ventilated container or mesh bag.

Roasted Chicken Legs with Garlic, Sage and Lemon

Juicy, heavenly aromatic chicken legs richly flavoured with thinly sliced garlic, fresh sage leaves, and lemon zest and juice.

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 50 to 55 minutes

Makes: two servings

2 large chicken legs

1 very large garlic clove, or two medium ones, very thinly sliced (see Note)

8 to 10 medium fresh sage leaves

2 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

2 tsp olive oil

• flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3/4 cup chicken stock

1 tsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375 F. With your fingertips, carefully lift the skin up from the upper thigh end of each chicken leg. Divide and slide the garlic slices and sage leaves underneath the skin, pushing them to different points around each leg. Set chicken skin back into its original position. Set the chicken legs in a cast iron skillet or small, shallow roasting pan.

Combine the lemon juice, zest and olive oil in a small bowl. Brush mixture over the chicken legs. Roast legs, basting with pan juices occasionally, 50 to 55 minutes, or until cooked through.

Turn the oven off. Set a chicken leg on each of two heatproof dinner plates. Set the plates in the still warm oven, with the door slightly ajar. This will keep the chicken warm while you make the sauce.

To do that, pour the chicken pan juices into a narrow jar. Set the pan over medium-high heat. Combine the stock and cornstarch in a small bowl. Pour into the pan and bring to a simmer. Skim fat from the top of the pan juices in the jar, and then add them to the pan. Simmer sauce until lightly thickened, about two minutes.

Pour some sauce on each chicken leg, and serve.

Note: I used a hand-held slicer to cut the garlic into very thin slices. You could, of course, also do that with a very sharp knife.

eakis@timescolonist.com

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.