Chicken Roasted with Lemon and Olives

Chicken Roasted with Lemon and Olives

When I was a growing up, my mother would oven roast chicken leg quarters with some salt and pepper, and a pinch of something mysteriously tasty which I later learned was thyme.  I can't recall her even buying white meat unless it was attached to a whole chicken.  She never even really got caught up in the boneless, skinless, chicken breast trend, sticking to the much more soul satisfying dark meat. I later learned that, for folks suffering from inflammatory diseases like gout, dark chicken meat is actually lower in purines than white - and is still tastier.  

I find chicken leg quarters to be one of the most versatile proteins, and one of my absolute favorite way to prepare them is not too far off my mom's, except with North African flair.  The lemons and olives create a delicious sauce, and the addition of a Za'atar-like blend of sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, and my favorite pepper berry , sumac.  This is a great main dish when you are short on time, or are having unexpected guests you want to impress.  Enjoy this with pita, rice, and a salad.

Serves 4


1 red onion, thinly sliced

4 whole chicken legs

1/2 cup black olives

2 tablespoons Za'atar (recipe to follow)

1 lemon, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil


1. Preheat oven to 400F.

2. Scatter the sliced onion across the bottom of a roasting pan large enough to hold the chicken legs in a single layer.  

3.  Dry the chicken pieces and rub all over with the Za'atar.  Place skin side up in a roasting dish on top of the onions. Arrange the lemon slices over the chicken.  Drizzle everything in the pan with the olive oil.

3.   Roast, uncovered, for 30 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes baste the with the pan juices, and again 5 minutes before the end of the 30 minutes.  Serve hot.

For the Za'atar:

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

2 teaspoons sumac

2 teaspoons fine kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper


Toss together all ingredients in a small bowl.  This spice blend can be stored in a small, sealable jar in a cool, dry place for up to two months.