Here’s something cool about baked chicken leg quarters: they’re inexpensive and delicious. Combining the soft, flavorful meat from the thigh and the “always tasty” leg makes this an almost foolproof recipe. Add in some delicious vegetables and we have a complete meal… all from one pot. Stick with me to find out just how easy this recipe is to recreate in your kitchen.
This recipe for baked chicken leg quarters is gluten free, paleo, low carb and soul satisfying.
There was a point when all I ate was boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It is what I grew up eating. Now, don’t get me wrong… you can make boneless, skinless chicken breast taste absolutely delicious (take a look at my Sauteed Chicken Breast with Zucchini Medley recipe for example).
Something happens when you cook with the skin on. The chicken fat melts into the dish. The skin gets nice and crispy. The entire recipe just takes on a life of its own. I love it!
When we use chicken leg quarters we get all that crispiness and so much more. The leg quarter consists of the thigh and leg combined. It looks a little intimidating at the grocery store if you have never cooked them before, but I promise that it is an easy cut to prepare. Plus, the thigh and leg are both dark meat, resulting in a super tender meal every time. It is almost foolproof!
We are essentially going to be par-cooking the legs before they get baked in the oven. A lot of people have no idea what that means, which is ok. Here’s the deal: this cut of chicken takes longer than 10 minutes to cook through. All we want to do is get a nice brown on the skin before we put them in the oven. So, just make sure that you’re not testing out the chicken before it gets put into the oven.
Believe me, it is going to look so good you’re going to want to take a bite! The best things in life take time… so let’s wait for the end result.
A Smothered Chicken Recipe?
There are a ton of smothered chicken recipes out there. Most of these recipes are loaded up with gravy, mushrooms and other tasty treats. This is my version of a smothered chicken… just smothered in vegetables rather than gravy.
If you want to more closely replicate a traditional smothered chicken recipe, it’s easy to do. Once the chicken leg quarters are baked, remove them from the vegetables with some tongs. Add the vegetables and cooking liquid to a blender (see the Recipe Notes for more information) and puree the vegetables.
Now you have chicken that can be smothered in a vegetable gravy. No flour. No thickeners. No kidding. Tons of flavor. This is one of the reasons I love cooking.
How To Bake Leg Quarters
Over the years I’ve cooked hundreds of pounds of leg quarters. At my catering company we made about 75 lbs a week for our pulled chicken sandwiches. Oh boy were those good. When it comes to making an incredibly flavorful leg quarter here’s what you need to do:
- Seasoning: Season the chicken simply with salt and pepper. We’re going to be sautéing it over high heat to start. Most other seasonings are going to burn before the skin can brown.
- Equipment: Make sure you have a heavy bottom pan. Chicken tends to absorb a lot of the heat from the pan. Using a heavy bottom pan will minimize the effects.
- Heat: We want that pan nice and hot! High heat is the way to go when browning chicken leg quarters.
- Fat: Use a good olive oil, duck fat, ghee, rendered bacon fat or lard.
- Baking: Make sure that the legs are covered when you put them into the oven. We want to retain the moisture. If you’re cooking the leg quarters without the veggies, remove the lid toward the end of the cook time and turn on the broiler to crisp up the skin again.
QUICK COOKING TIP: Getting a nice, crispy skin is important for a couple reasons:
- It tastes incredible. There’s nothing quite like crispy chicken skin.
- Crispy skin imparts flavor to the dish while it is cooking.
- Without crisping the skin, it is going to feel “flabby” and fatty when we eat it.
- At the end, if you have time, you can “re-crisp” the skin by removing the chicken from the veggies and placing it under the broiler for a minute or two. Yummy.
I think we’ve covered all the bases to get started on this recipe. Let’s dig in.
Fantastic Baked Chicken Leg Quarters
- 4 Chicken Leg Quarters Skin On
- 1 Leek Cleaned & Sliced
- 1 Onion Spanish, sliced
- 3 cloves Garlic Sliced
- 1 Zucchini Diced
- 1 Shallot Sliced
- 3 cups Cherry Tomatoes Sliced in half
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 2 tbsp Herbs de Provence
- 3 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Kosher Salt total for the dish
- 1 tbsp Cracked Pepper
- 1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese shredded
- Heat a large cast iron or other heavy, oven proof pot over high heat. Add the olive oil. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Add to the pan skin side down and leave to brown for 2-3 minutes. Flip and repeat. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add all the veggies into the pan. If it looks like the pan will be too crowded, split into 2 batches. Add in the salt and pepper. After 5 minutes of cooking, add in the tomato paste. Stir to incorporate. When the veggies start browning, add in the balsamic vinegar and mix well. Immediately remove from the heat and set the veggies aside. Turn off the heat to the stove.
- Layer the chicken in the bottom of the pan. Top with the lightly browned veggies. Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, serve hot into bowls and top with the parmesan cheese. Happy eating!
- If you don't have leeks, don't worry about it. Just substitute another onion.
- Don't drain off the fat from browning the chicken. The fat is going to make the veggies taste incredibly good.
- Make sure that you taste the veggies before layering them onto the chicken. If they need a seasoning adjustment, it needs to happen before they go into the oven.
- If you want to REALLY kick this one up... Remove the baked chicken leg quarters from the pan after they are cooked. Add the veggies and cooking liquid to a blender. Make sure the blender is vented and covered with a towel so it doesn't splatter all over the kitchen. Puree the vegetables. Pour the puree over the chicken, sprinkle on the parmesan and some chopped fresh parsley. So incredibly good.
Final thoughts on the baked chicken leg quarters recipe:
There are a lot of ways to cook chicken with the skin on. This is one of my favorites for a couple reasons.
First, you can make it all in one pot. Sure, you have to take stuff out and put it back in, but that’s super easy.
Second, it is a healthy and really flavorful meal that the whole family can get behind. I just love it and so do my kids.
The last point I want to make is just how economical this recipe is. Even though we use a lot of ingredients, nothing is out of the ordinary or expensive. A really nice, well balanced meal.
So do you think you will make this chicken dinner with whole veggies or puree them to make smothered chicken? However you make it, I hope that you enjoy! Happy eating.