My Little Victory Garden: Rustic Baked Hen Legs with White Toscana Poached Pears

Sometimes I think I should change the title of “My Little Victory Garden” posts to “Scrappy Cooking.”  Indeed, the theme is most often: do what you can with what you have.

So this week I once again looked in my freezer for forgotten protein and found…a bulk pack of 14 chicken legs I had purchased on sale for $5.00.  “Okay,” I thought.  “There’s my main dish.  Next, check the garden.”  I couldn’t find my rosemary.  My little plant is only 6″ tall and has been completely swallowed up by my massive pumpkin plant.

Therefore, I used my neighbor’s rosemary.  She had borrowed an egg earlier that day.  I have dibs on her tomatillos she was growing with the seeds I had given her (I pulled my plant up because I thought it was a weed!).  And she’s used my Anaheim and jalapeno peppers no less than six times this summer…okay, you get the drift.  We’re ingredient swappers.  I’ll cherish her forever.

After walking into the house I noticed fruit flies had already started swarming around the lovely D’Anjou pears my parents brought me from Tuttle so I quickly settled on a complementary dish of poached pears and…there! In the back of my refrigerator was a crisp, medium dry bottle of white Toscana (Italian wine from the Tuscany area) taking up space.  I think it has been in there for at least six weeks.  And…that was all I needed to finish my entrée.

If you’d like to cook with me, I’ll share the simple recipe I concocted.  Here we go:

First, mix 1/2 c. olive oil and 1/3 c. balsamic vinegar with 1/2 T. sea salt, 3-4 thinly sliced cloves of garlic, ground pepper to cover the top of the liquid, and one 5″ twig of rosemary.  Strip the rosemary from the twig and mince most of it, careful not to include the tough portions that attached to the twig.  I put in about 25% of my rosemary whole for a pretty look on the baked poultry.

Whisk the marinade together, then put the 7 hen legs plus the marinade in a gallon bag.  Shake, and leave overnight…or AT LEAST for 1.5 hours.

When you’re ready to bake the chicken, arrange in a pan and pour remaining marinade over the meat.  Bake at 375 for 1:15 or 400 for 1 hour.  The skin should be pulling away and darker brown when the meat is done.

While the chicken is roasting it will then be time to poach your pears.  I used all the pears that were ripe and tender, meaning: six.  Therefore, you could probably use about one pear for every two or three chicken legs.

I hardly ever peel my fruit (apologies to all the purists) because I just like to eat pears and apples with the peelings ON…it makes me think I’ve not sacrificed all the vitamins to the compost gods.  So, I destemmed and deseeded my pears then sliced them thinly and as evenly as possible.  It’s important that you try to match the size and density of your slices as closely as possible so they will finish at the same time.

Once the pears were prepped, I skinned and diced one large shallot.  I then sautéed the shallot in about 2.5-3 Tablespoons of butter, until the edges were just turning brown and it had softened nicely.

Next I added the pears and tossed them with the leftover butter, then added about 2/3rd’s bottle of white, med-dry wine to the pan and raised the temperature until the mixture began to simmer.  I added two sprigs of rosemary to the mixture, 1/3 c. sugar, and two slices of lemon and let the mixture cook the pears for about 30 minutes, until the fruit was nicely tender.  I then scooped out all the fruit (as well as the rosemary sprigs) into a bowl and reduced the liquid until a just slightly-thick sauce appeared.

When your chicken is about five minutes from being done, gently place the pears back into the reduction and warm up the mixture.  After you’ve pulled the chicken from the oven, arrange nicely on a platter and dish the poached pears across the top of your meat.

I would suggest serving with some good bread, a mixture of crisp greens and perhaps a side of purple roasted potatoes or a squash medley as your side.  Therefore, your starch, hot, cold, crisp, sweet and savory are all balanced.  Have some chilled Toscana left?  Then you know EXACTLY what to serve with the meal!

One note – the savory/sweet pears are not all that good cold (the shallot & rosemary flavor is a strange combination right out of the refrigerator), so if you’re going to have leftovers, make sure and warm the pears.

I’m glad I had a few moments this evening to share my recipe with you.  How about you?  Have you picked any pears?  Any if so, how have you prepared them?

Take care…Kelly

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2 thoughts on “My Little Victory Garden: Rustic Baked Hen Legs with White Toscana Poached Pears”

    1. Hello, Robin – it’s good to see your comment because I feel I’ve been away from those I was getting to know for a while. Hope you and your family are well! ~ RDK

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