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.
On 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.