Leeky Chicken Legs cooked in Maple Sap

Everyone has had a day when you are just too tired to cook but you’ve already pulled the let’s-go-out-to-eat card one too many times that week.  So you take a deep breath, open the refrigerator door and stare blankly into the abyss, wondering what the heck you are going to make.  Tonight that was me.  I grabbed the first two things that I saw: chicken legs and a leek.  Put them together and you have “leeky chicken.”  Perfect.

I tossed two tablespoons of butter into the pan, seasoned my chicken with a liberal dose of salt and pepper, and browned them in the butter over medium heat, turning the legs every few minutes.  Once browned on all sides, I tossed in one whole sliced leek and covered the pan.  After a few minutes, I realized that the butter was going to burn if I kept going and that the chicken legs weren’t cooked through yet.

Another blank stare, this time at the stove.

39650985455_40581bdcac_oOn another burner, a pot of maple sap was boiling away as part of my yearly backyard sugaring project.  I looked at the pot for a few seconds and then looked back at the nearly burning pan of chicken and leeks.  Then back to the pot.  Without much thought, I grabbed a ladle and poured two ladle fulls of partially reduced maple sap into the sizzling pan of chicken, instantly deglazing the pan – releasing almost burnt, caramelly goodness into the liquid.  Throwing the lid back onto the pan, I allowed the legs to simmer away in the sap for another 15 minutes.

At this point, the legs were cooked completely through and had been infused with a tender earthy sweetness.  This is when my brain finally kicked back in.  After removing the legs from the pan, I added another splash of the sap and a thorough sprinkling of salt to balance out the sweetness.  Had I known that I would be turning this experiment into a blog post, I would have measured out the salt.  Things being as they are, I would guess that it was about another teaspoon of salt.  The fat that had rendered out of the chicken skins added a richness to the sweet and salty sauce while the leeks brought their onion pungency to the table.  A quick sauté of a bunch of asparagus and the meal was finished.   The chicken was a big hit with the Man Cub, who eats a ton during the day but can be a bit picky once dinner rolls along.

More details on sugaring to come.

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