This is one of those glorious one-pan meals. I usually add a green salad or a cooked vegetable, but it's not necessary. Served with a cold beer or a glass of chardonnay, this is one of my favorite ways to end the day-and it's just enough for two (or two nights' worth of dinner for one).
When I don't need the whole thing, there is no better chicken part for my money than whole legs. Composed of both the thigh and the drumstick, these tender, deeply flavorful chicken pieces work well in nearly every way-on the grill, cooked in mole, or roasted. They also feature a slightly higher fat content than chicken breasts, and, therefore, are ideal for cooking along with a root vegetable, as I've done here, since the extra bit of fat coats and flavors the dense veggies. I've used garnet yams here, but regular potatoes, peeled; cubed butternut squash; beets; turnips; or a combination would work nicely as well.
And the best part: One pan means fewer dishes!
Note: This isn't a requirement, but it's one of my favorite tricks: As soon as I open the package of chicken, the first thing I do is trim the excess fat. I saute it with onions, garlic, ginger, Chinese five-spice powder, fish sauce, a dash of soy sauce, water, and whatever vegetable scraps I have lying around to make broth for pho. Even if I'm not planning on eating the pho the same day, it's a great, flavorful broth to have on hand, and it takes only a couple of minutes to get started. I let it simmer for a couple of hours, usually while I prepare and serve the chicken, and then simply strain, cool, and refrigerate or freeze in an airtight container until I'm ready to use it.
INGREDIENTS 2 whole chicken legs (thigh and drumstick, attached, skin on) $5
1/4 cup prepared barbecue sauce (I like TJ's Bold and Smoky Kansas City-Style) $3.50 for 18 ounces
6 cloves garlic, chopped, divided pantry
1 large handful fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped $1 for a bunch
1 lemon (half juiced, half sliced thinly) 50 cents
Dash of salt, plus more to taste pantry
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste pantry
Asian chili sauce to taste optional
2 large garnet yams (orange sweet potatoes), scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces (I like to leave the skin on) $1.50
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil pantry
Total cost of ingredients: $11.50
DIRECTIONS Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Rinse the chicken in the sink and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
In a bowl combine the barbecue sauce, four cloves of the chopped garlic, the cilantro, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and chili sauce, if using. Mix well with a spoon.
Place the mixture and the chicken legs in a zip-top bag until chicken is completely covered with the sauce.
Seal tightly, making sure there is no air in the bag, and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes (or up to four hours).
While the chicken marinates, toss the sweet potatoes in a bowl with the remaining garlic, the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste until well-coated.
Once the chicken has marinated, place it skin-side-up on an ungreased, rimmed baking sheet (cover the baking sheet with foil if you prefer).
Surround with the sweet-potato mixture, making sure it is nicely spread out.
Roast for 28-34 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender, skin is sticky-crisp, and meat is juicy but cooked through.
Let rest for five minutes, then serve hot.