It is ridiculously easy (great for the chef), child-friendly (works for families) and all but fail proof (terrific for guests). It can be made ahead. It is pretty. It is healthy. It can be spiced up or down as you prefer. It is flexible and can be served in a variety of ways. In fact, I can’t think of anything not to like about this dish.
It is simply a workhorse recipe that should be in your arsenal.
And as much as I’d love to take full credit for this one; it is not mine. Well-known Jamie Oliver gave me the basics and the idea. I adapted the below recipe from his original.
For the Chicken (Serves 4):
4 Chicken legs, jointed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 good handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped
2 good handfuls of the best quality cherry tomatoes, halved
2-3 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
2 small Aubergines, quartered lengthwise and then cut into bite sized pieces
1 Whole clove of garlic, broken into cloves (not peeled)
1 fresh red chili, seeds removed and finely chopped (or a dash of red pepper flakes); add to taste (I go pretty light on the chili if kids are involved)
2-3 Tbsp Olive oil
For the Chicken: Preheat your oven to 350ºF/180ºC. Generously season your chicken pieces all over and put into a heavy casserole (relatively snug fitting). Toss the tomatoes, aubergine, garlic cloves, basil (stalks and all) and red chili with your olive oil and then add to the casserole. Adjust the ingredients so that the chicken isn’t fully covered and the tomatoes/garlic/basil get pushed underneath a bit.
Place the entire dish into the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Turn the top bits of veggies about half-way through so that you get a more even browning.
When the chicken is falling off the bone and the top of the dish is nicely browned; you are ready to pull the dish together.
To start, squeeze the garlic out of the skins and add them back to the casserole. Once the garlic is ready, it is time to get creative.
With Pasta: As the chicken is finishing, cook your pasta of choice. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take it off the bone and shred into bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken back into the casserole (or a larger pot if necessary) and quickly reheat the pasta with the chicken, tomatoes, garlic and liquid produced while the casserole was in the oven. A quick minute or two stove top is all you need to combine and heat all the ingredients/flavors.
With Couscous, Polenta or Mashed Potatoes: You can de-bone and flake the chicken as well or simply lift the chicken pieces out of the casserole. Place the chicken on top of your C, P or MP and add the cooked veggies, garlic and sauce to each plate.
With Salad: I prefer mâche, mesclun or rocket. Divide your greens among plates and then top with chicken (again flaked or whole pieces) and veggies, garlic and sauce.
Or on its own: This can easily be served on its own, with some crusty bread to soak up the yummy juices created while the chicken and veggies cook.