Leg Quarters and What to do with Them

My dad comes from a family of four. By the time I was twelve, all his siblings were married and most had kids. Nearly every weekend most of us gathered at my grandparents house for Sunday "dinner" or Saturday supper. While Sunday was a true dinner of epic southern proportions prepared by a perspiring, busy grandmother and aunts, Saturday nights were the domain of my grandfather (okay, mostly). Many Saturdays, he and my uncles would spend the day fishing and we'd fry quantities of fish that would feed us all with leftovers for the less fortunate in the community. On non-fishing weekends, the meal was almost always grilled leg quarters, baked beans and an assortment of sides. Cold or warm weather, Papaw would stand over the grill, sopping the leg quarters with sauce and visiting with the family who were gathered on the patio. The smell of cheap beer, sprite and bourbon and charcoal take me back there in a heartbeat. 

My grandparents were some of the most hospitable and generous people I know.  My grandmother is still living and I see that quality in her today as well as in my parents. Often, my mom's family would even join the party--how many families can mix in-laws like that, I wonder? 

My grandfather left us many memories that still cause me to chuckle. Once, he was grilling and it was very cold. He started talking about the great head-warmer he'd found in the house. It was my aunt's tube top (hello, eighties). 

So, it is from this legacy, that I share the leg quarter love with you all. I see now that the reason we ate leg quarters all the time was that it was probably the only economical choice for my dad and his brothers--all three had and still have healthy appetites. One of the first times my aunt brought her future husband over, they cooked leg quarters and the family chowed down, as usual. When the meal was done, she leaned back and commented, "I did pretty well tonight, I only ate two pieces of chicken."  "Nancy," he replied, "you really ate four." Now he is in the poultry business and knows his chicken, so although he was absolutely correct and yet perhaps out of line for a first date, she married him anyway. 

Back to the actual cooking. Perhaps you've taken my advice and thunked that huge plastic bag of chicken quarters into your buggy, taken it home  and placed it in the sink. "What have I gotten into?" You may be asking yourself, "It's so yucky and so much skin--gross--and how do I cook it?" No fear. I will not abandon you to poultry paradox. (I'm sure that doesn't make sense, but it was fun to write)

We'll start with a grilling and crockpot marinade. Do this several hours ahead of time.

Assemble your tools:
Grab a good sharp knife or scissors (kitchen or plain), some gallon zipper bags (to store/marinate) and a casserole dish  We usually go ahead and put some soap on the sink so we can clean our hands quickly thereafter. Leave the implements and chicken by the sink while you make the marinade.

The Marinade:
In a food processor, by hand, or in a mini-chopper, mince/puree together: 1 clove of garlic per chicken piece, salt, pepper and sugar (in order of greatest to least). Tuan does this, so I am going to say that the seasonings should be "to taste".  You should not be afraid of the salt and pepper and use less sugar than salt (my husband will never write a cookbook). He says that you want to end up with app. 1 Tbsp of marinade per piece.  This will smell strong--no fear.

Prep and Marinate:
Open up the bag, drain the juice and trim the excess fat/skin off of the chicken piece. Do not remove all the skin! You want to leave the skin that covers the meat, but there is some excess on the sides that should be cut. The skin has some good things in it and does some good things for the chicken. Scissors are great for this. Rub a little marinade all over the front and back of the piece and plop it into your casserole dish. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 

At this point, the smell will be garlicky. If you are pregnant, you may want to delegate this to your spouse. : ) You can put the chicken straight into the fridge or into plastic bags and then into the fridge (we highly recommend this--it contains the odor). Into the fridge go the pieces you plan to cook that day or the next. Into the freezer go the future pieces.

Confession: I've grilled twice in my life. Twice in one week and it was chicken and hot dogs for several hundred each time. So, I am passing this on hearsay as a woman who has not been liberated from the kitchen to the grill and I am okay with that. 

This is what I've pried from Tuan's deep mind. Get your grill hot, but not flaming. Put the leg quarters on and cook them with the lid alternately on and off. You want the grill to stay hot and smoky, and not go out, nor flame up and burn the chicken. This is not one of those quick and speedy things--but, oh, the rewards! At least forty-five minutes on the grill. Move 'em around, flip 'em, just keep opening and closing that lid. 

To check for doneness, examine the joint--no blood, or rawness and check the thick part of a thigh. The meat will be pink-ish even after it's done, but not raw. I guess you could use a thermometer--ha! But that would be too easy. 

The tenderness and yumminess of this chicken is unbelievable. It's a great company meal. The guys can fellowship around the grill while you and your friends watch them work. : ) 

Sunday Chicken in the Crock-Pot:
We made this last weekend and nearly cried when we finished it on Sunday night. It was so good.  Saturday evening around five: Remove a bag of marinated, frozen leg quarters from the freezer and place them in the crockpot. Start off on high heat to get them going. Around two hours later, turn it to low and leave it overnight. Sometime Sunday morning (it was 7:30 for me), add as many cut up potatoes (finger size) as you like, sprinkle with salt, then as many carrots, cut the same length as the potatoes as you can cram on top, with a bit more salt. Pull up one of the pieces and lay it on top, then add just a bit of water to the pot. Leave it, go to worship and come home at lunch to bliss. 

A Cleaner Alternative: 
Some folks don't like dealing with chicken bits in their Sunday dinner. Here is my suggestion: On Sunday morning, pull the chicken from the pot and throw the veggies in. Quickly remove the skin, and if your are feeling especially particular,pull the meat off the bone and throw it back in on top of the veggies. I usually use some tongs and a fork. It leaves less to deal with at lunch and makes it more company friendly.

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