A two-step recipe for whole roasted chicken legs with fennel and green olives. Alongside juicy dark meat chicken with crispy skin, roasted lemon wedges, Castelvetrano olives, and a few handfuls of fresh herbs make for bold, summery flavors that really pop.
Today I’m sharing a recipe for whole roasted chicken legs with lemon, fennel, green olives, and herbs. As the “roasting” part implies, this recipe requires some oven time which can be a tough case to make in the midst of a June heat wave. Even so, the crispy, golden chicken skin, tender dark meat, plus supple fennel, bright lemon, and fresh herbs all piled atop nutty, schmaltzy couscous is totally worth it.
Cooking with Whole Chicken Legs
If you can find them, whole chicken legs are a delight to roast. The single cut with a thigh and drumstick retains the juices while the skin crisps up nicely. If you’re unable to find cuts of whole chicken legs, skin-on, bone-in thighs and/or drumsticks will do. Just make sure to cut down the cook time slightly.
Like all chicken, salting it ahead allows time for the salt to penetrate the meat more fully, resulting in a juicier piece of chicken. If you’re working the night ahead, salt the chicken all over and then set the chicken uncovered and skin side up in the fridge overnight. This gives the skin time to dry out and makes for a crispier finish.
If you’re working in the moment, the chicken will still be delicious. Just pat dry with paper towels and rub all over with salt. If you have time, doing this and then letting the chicken sit on the counter for 20 minutes will make for great flavor.
I originally conceived of this dish to make use of the fennel that often piles up in my farm share. I love thinly sliced fennel in salads with lots of lemon, but I was looking for a way to cook with it. In the heat of the skillet, the edges crisp and fennel’s signature anise flavor mellows. It’s delicious!
Putting it All Together
After sautéing the fennel and shallot, you’ll sear the chicken briefly, and then recombine it all in the skillet, add a splash of vermouth or white wine, and then roast until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
Once the chicken’s out of the oven, arrange cooked couscous, chicken legs, fennel, and roasted lemon wedges on a platter. Spoon any accumulated pan juices over the top. Top with fresh herbs and green olives.
A Note On Portions
If you’re feeding a crowd, this recipe can easily be double or tripled, just be sure to use a large baking dish or several skillets or baking dishes to avoid crowding the chicken and vegetables.
When serving this chicken, I like to make a whole leg per person. If you have folks with smaller appetites, you can cut the thigh from the drumstick before serving, and that way the dish can serve as many as 4.
- 2 whole skin-on, bone-in chicken legs or a mix of thighs and drumsticks
- Sea salt
- 1 medium fennel bulb (white part only), cored and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (reserve green fronds for garnish)
- 2 medium shallots, chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges
- 1/4 cup dry vermouth
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- 1/4 cup minced chives
- 1/2 cup pitted green Castelvetrano olives
- Toasted and cooked couscous, farro, or grain of your choice for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a small bowl, toss the fennel and shallot with lemon zest. Cut the lemon into wedges and set aside.
Set a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and then the fennel mixture. Sauté until fennel is tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Toward the end of cook time, sprinkle with sea salt.
Remove the cooked fennel from the skillet (you can set it in the bowl used to toss it with the zest), and turn heat up to medium/medium high so the pan is hot but not smoking. Add a drizzle more oil if needed, and set the chicken in the skillet skin side down. Sear 4 minutes undisturbed, then nudge it around the pan to make sure it browns evenly and cook until golden, another 2 - 3 minutes. Flip and cook 4 minutes longer.
Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons rendered fat.
Return fennel and chicken to pan, arrange the lemon wedges around the skillet, add the vermouth, and slide into the oven. Roast chicken legs 12 - 15 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thigh (next to the bone without touching the bone) reads 165 degrees F.
To serve, arrange cooked couscous, chicken, fennel, and lemon wedges on a platter and top with a few spoonfuls of the pan juices. Sprinkle herbs, including 2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds, over top, scatter the olives, and serve!