A brine made with olives, lemons and a slew of bay leaves does most of the work of flavoring this dish. "I like to use fresh bay leaves whenever possible," chef Paul Virant says. "They have a more fragrant, floral pungency." To add an extra layer of smokiness, Virant brushes the chicken legs and the sweet onions that accompany them with a quick pimentón-infused oil.
More Grilled Chicken Recipes
2 quarts water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup herbes de Provence
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 cup pitted Spanish green olives, smashed
10 bay leaves
12 whole chicken legs, divided into drumsticks and thighs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon hot pimentón de la Vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
3 large Vidalia or other sweet onions, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed Spanish olives, sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
How to Make It
In a large saucepan, combine the water, kosher salt, sugar, herbes de Provence, lemon zest and juice, smashed olives and bay leaves and simmer to dissolve the salt. Pour the brine into a very large, nonreactive bowl or stock pot and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Submerge the chicken in the brine and cover, or put the chicken and brine in a heavy-duty plastic bag. Refrigerate overnight.
In a small saucepan, whisk together the vegetable oil, pimentón de la Vera and 1 tablespoon of the chopped thyme. Place over moderate heat until hot.
Light a grill. Brush the onion slices with some of the paprika oil. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of thyme. Grill the onions over moderately high heat, turning once, until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the onions to a large platter. Toss to separate the rings and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the paprika oil. Add the sliced olives and parsley and toss again.
Remove the chicken pieces from the brine and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning often, until the skin is nicely charred and the meat is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Toward the end of cooking, brush the chicken all over with the paprika oil. Transfer the chicken to the platter with the onions and serve.
The smoked-paprika oil can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
This hearty chicken dish would be equally at home served in the U.S. for July Fourth or in the south of France. Certainly the refreshing rosés of regions like Les Baux de Provence have a fresh intensity that pairs well here (Virant chose to pour a rosé with this dish, too).
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