There is something comforting about eating bento boxes (bian dang) that they sell all over Taiwan.
Perhaps it’s because I spent a large chunk of my childhood there. It’s like fast-food Taiwanese-style. You can get them in train stations, eateries that specialize in just selling bento boxes, to convenience stores like 7-Eleven which seems like they are on every street corner. They often come with a meat, a few sides of veggies, and some pickles all served on top of freshly steamed rice. The contents are compacted into these small rectangular paper take-out boxes with rubber bands to hold the lid down. It’s like eating a home-cooked meal out of a box, packed with love. Ok, I’m sure they weren’t pack with love like mama would have, but close enough.
This chicken dish reminds me of my childhood days eating out of a bento box in Taiwan, as this is often a type of the meat you would find in a bento box. It goes well with rice and a squeeze of a lemon wedge, served with steamed rice and a few sides of veggies.
A chicken leg quarter usually consists of a drumstick, a thigh, and sometimes part of a back. It’s an inexpensive cut. I try to buy humane meats from my local stores. I’ve found that they actually taste better than “regular” factory-farmed poultry. The trickiest part to the recipe is probably deboning the chicken. You’d be surprised how little meat is actually there after you debone the leg quarter. Leave the skin on. It helps retain moisture in the meat. Browning the meat before baking also helps to maintain maximum moisture and flavor.
Baked Garlic Boneless Chicken Leg Quarters
serves 2 adults and 2 children, or 3 adults
6 chicken leg quarters
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon rice wine
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, sliced into halves
1 tablespoon cooking oil (I use olive)
1. Debone the chicken leg quarters. If you have never done this, here’s a good video to get you started: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrGYaVN_T_0
2. Make 1-2 cuts about 1 cm deep over the thickest part of the meat (not the skin-side). This helps to cook the meat more evenly.
3. Marinade the chicken with soy sauce, black pepper, rice wine, and bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to a maximum of 6 hours. Re-distribute the meat in the marinade as needed during this time so that every piece can marinade evenly.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.
5. Remove chicken pieces and let the marinade drip off of the chicken. Place on a plate.
6. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic. Cook the garlic for about 30 seconds before adding the chicken pieces skin-side down onto the skillet. Let them sear undisturbed for about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip over when there is a light brown color to that side, then brown the other side for about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces skin-side up in one layer onto the lined-baking sheet. Place them with at least 1 inch spacing from each other.
7. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes or when the meat reaches 165 degrees in a meat thermometer.
Optional: Serve with a squeeze of a lemon wedge