Chicken leg lollipops with sweet & sour glaze | soft polenta I chicken-roasted carrots

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***RECIPE, FEEDS 4-6***

4-5 lb (circa 2 kg) chicken legs (smaller ones are better for this, imho)
1-2 bunches of green onions
3-4 garlic cloves
1 oz (28g) dried mushrooms (very optional)
2 lb (900g) carrots
1 cup (150g) cornmeal
honey (or any other sweetener)
butter
cornstarch
tomato paste
white wine (very optional)
vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
soy sauce (or Worcestershire, or fish sauce)
oil
salt
pepper

Get your oven heating to 400ºF/200ºC.

Strip the meat off the lower third of the shinbone on each leg and cut it off, along with what remains of the ankle joint (watch the video for details). Put the the legs in a roasting pan, and the bone/meat/skin trimmings into a skillet. Season the legs heavily with salt and pepper, and toss them in a very light coating of cornstarch. Toss them again in oil, distribute them in a single layer across the roasting pan and roast them for about an hour to start with.

Meanwhile, brown the chicken trimmings in the pan with a little oil. Cut thin slices out of the middle section of the green onions to use as a raw garnish at the end. Roughly slice the onion tops and bottoms, peel and crush the garlic cloves, and get all that browning in the pan along with the chicken trimmings. When you’ve got some color on everything, stir in a squeeze of tomato paste and brown that for a moment. Deglaze with half a bottle of white wine, or water. Add more water to get everything submerged. Throw in the dried mushrooms, if you’re using them. Give the pan a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and simmer for at least 45 minute, stirring occasionally and topping off with additional water to keep things submerged.

Bring about a quart/liter of water to a boil with a couple pinches of salt. Whisk in the cornmeal, reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and let cook for at least a half hour. Before you eat this polenta, melt in butter to taste (I used like half a stick, 60g), season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in additional water if the the texture is too thick, keeping in mind it will thicken a lot as it cools.

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Prep the carrots by cutting them into thick pieces. After the chicken has roasted for an hour, take it out, scrap it off the bottom of the tray and push it to one side to make room for the carrots. Dump the carrots in the tray, toss them with a little oil and salt, and then reposition the chicken legs so that they’re all in one layer again, even if this requires putting some of them on the carrots. Return to the oven and roast until the carrots are almost cooked (it took me a half hour).

Strain the quick chicken stock through a sieve, squeeze the solids with a spoon to make sure you’ve got all the juice out and discard them. Give the pan a quick rinse to get out any chunks, return it to the heat and bring the strained stock back to a simmer. Make a smooth slurry with a couple tablespoons of cornstarch and a splash of water, and slowly drizzle some of it into the stock while stirring. Put in as much slurry as you need to achieve a somewhat thick consistency (it will thicken more as it sits around before you eat). Add soy sauce, vinegar and honey (or any form of sugar) to taste, remembering that the resulting glaze should taste way too intense on its own.

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When the roasting tray comes out of the oven, grab each leg by the one and drag the meat through the glaze. Lean each leg against the side of the pan as you go, to keep the bones clean. Put the roasting tray with the carrots on the stove, turn on the heat and deglaze with a splash of water. Reduce the resulting sauce to a glaze for the carrots as you cook them to the tenderness you desire.

Put some of the finished polenta on a plate along with some carrots. Give the legs a second swirl in the glaze before putting them on top of the polenta. Garnish with the reserved green onion slices.

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