Burnished Chicken Legs (or Butterflied Game Hen) with Yams & Parsnips



by Cat, Jan 2012 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

The best part of this recipe is the roasted yams and parsnips flavored with the Dijon marinade. It’s too bad that root veggies are an under-appreciated food in our American culture; hopefully this preparation will help to change that.

You can use just four thighs, as in the original recipe, but I prefer to use two legs (thigh & drumstick attached). Other options: use a half chicken (thigh, drumstick, wings and breasts); a whole Cornish Game Hen, butterflied; or 2 turkey legs (thighs and drumsticks).

You can also use two turkey legs (thigh + drumstick) or breasts, but make sure the meat has not been injected with a seasoned brine (water and ‘flavors’), as you may not like those ‘flavors’ in combination with the dijon marinade (See 2013 testing, below). Better to do your own brining.

The ‘burnishing’ is accomplished by a mustard & balsamic marinade that bronzes nicely in the oven. The original recipe did not toss the veggies with anything, but I like to make a little extra marinade, add the reserved bacon fat (from the bacon garnish) to it, and use that to toss the veggies before roasting.

I’ve never tried making this on the grill, but as long as the meat and veggies are not directly over the heat, I think it would be scrumptious.

Burnished Chicken legs (or Butterflied Game Hen) with Yams & Parsnips

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (1). Total prep time: 15 min; total roasting time: 65 – 70 minutes. Serves 2, but you can easily double the recipe to serve 4 by using a whole cut-up chicken (2 each: legs (drumstick and thigh together), breasts, and wings) or two butterflied game hens, and doubling other ingredients.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Chicken legs (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks), or mix of chicken pieces, or 1 Cornish Game Hen (butterflied), bone-in, skin on
  • Marinade
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ⅛ tsp Unrefined Sea Salt (omit if you brine the meat)
  • ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Veggies
  • 1 small yam (6 oz)
  • 2 parsnips (3 oz total)
  • 2 small or 1 large shallot
  • ⅛ tsp Unrefined Sea Salt
  • ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Garnish
  • 1 strip bacon (optional)
  • ⅛ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • Equipment 
  • medium bowl
  • rimmed baking sheet, or Pyrex baking pan
  • Serving bowl and platter; or shallow serving bowl


  1. Brining (optional): I recommend brining chicken breasts or butterflied game hens, as it helps to retain moisture in the meat and can also be used to add flavors by the addition of herbs & spices. See Brining Chicken or  Cornish Game Hens, Grouse, Pheasant & Other Small Fowl (scroll down to ‘Brining’ section) for details.
  2. Marinate; Cook optional bacon: Combine marinade ingredients in bowl. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat. Cover and place in refrigerator to marinate at least 1 hour, up to 8 hours. NOTE: if you brined the pieces, omit the salt.
  3. Meanwhile (optional), cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp; remove to paper towel to drain and reserve bacon fat for drizzling over the veggies.
  4. Prep veggies: Peel yam and parsnips then cut into ½ inch pieces; separate the lobes of shallot, peel and halve through the root end. Toss together in bowl with ⅛ tsp each salt and pepper, and reserved bacon fat (or olive oil).
  5. Roast: Preheat oven to 425°F (or 400°F if using Pyrex pan).
  6. Arrange chicken, skin-side up on one end of baking sheet; drizzle with remaining marinade. Arrange veggie mix  on other end of baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper over all (skip salt over chicken, if brined).
  7. Alternately, arrange veggie mix in pyrex baking pan, drizzle with remaining marinade, then lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper; arrange chicken, skin-side up, on top of veggies. I prefer this method, as the veggies benefit from the flavor of the drippings from the chicken.
  8. Roast 20 minutes. Brush chicken and veggies with pan juices; stir veggies. Continue to roast, basting and stirring every 10 minutes, until veggies are tender and chicken is burnished (deeply browned) and reaches internal temperature of 165°F in breast or 170°F in thigh.
    • If using baking sheet, it will take about 30 minutes more (50 min total) to reach temperature;
    • If using pyrex pan at lower oven temperature of 400°F, it will take 45 – 50 minutes more  (65 – 70 min total) to reach temperature.
  9. Finish: When bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble and toss with parsley.
  10. When chicken is done, stir veggies and transfer to serving bowl with slotted spoon. Toss with half of the bacon mixture. Baste chicken then transfer (with tongs) to serving platter and sprinkle with remaining bacon mixture. Alternately, transfer veggies to shallow serving bowl and place the chicken pieces on top.


Testing 1/21/12: Made as written, using 1 leg, 1 wing and 1 half-breast (cut into 2 pieces and brined). However, the veggies tended to stick to the baking sheet, so after the first 20 minutes, I drizzled olive oil over them, which helped. In the future, I’ll cook the bacon while the chicken is marinating, and reserve the bacon fat to toss with the veggies before roasting. Recipe updated accordingly. Result: Excellent flavor; I especially like the combo of parsnips and yams. Chicken is flavorful and tender.

Testing 5/11/12: Made as written using one game hen, halved. However, I forgot and left them in the brine overnight, so removed, rinsed and let them soak in fresh water 30 minutes, twice. Hopefully they won’t be too salty. Then I let them sit in the fridge, skin up for about 8 hours to dry a bit, before marinating them. Roast over veggies in large Pyrex baking pan at 400 for 20 min; basted but not much liquid for basting; continued roasting for 50 min, basting/stirring every 15 minutes until done (until the fleshy part of the thigh reaches 175-180 F on an instant-read thermometer). Used reserved bacon fat with the veggies, and they did not stick this time. Result: Delicious, as before; wonderful combo of flavors.

Testing 11/27/13: Made using two turkey legs (2 thighs, 2 drumsticks) to serve 4 on Thanksgiving, with leftovers. For brining and cooking times, I used a Paleo Cupboard recipe for roasted, herbed turkey legs (2). The legs I’m using have already been injected with seasoned brine, so I did not brine them. However, if you wish to brine them, allow about 12 hours or overnight in the brine. Otherwise, prepared mainly as written, but doubled the dressing and veggies. Left the thighs attached to the drumsticks; brushed about 1/3 of the dijon-balsamic dressing on all sides, then chilled in fridge. Placed veggies in bowl, tossed with another 1/3 of the dijon-balsamic dressing, then placed in roasting pan (used my Corningware electric chicken fryer). Arranged legs on top, skin-side up, brushed with more dressing. Into 350°F oven at 5:30 (in back, with my apple crisp in front) for about 30 min until crisp is done. At 6 PM, removed crisp, increased oven to 400°F, and brushed on a bit more dressing. Continued basting every 15 minutes; done at 7 PM. Result: Nicely burnished and meat is tender. But I’ll never use turkey that has been injected with water and ‘flavors’ again – I just didn’t like the flavor of the juices and the flavor they gave to the meat.


  1. Fine Cooking: Burnished Chicken Thighs Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Parsnips & Shallots (finecooking.com/recipes/burnished-chicken-thighs-roasted-sweet-potatoes-parsnips-shallots.aspx_
  2. Paleo Cupboard recipe for turkey legs (paleocupboard.com/herb-roasted-turkey-legs.html)

Related Recipes, Other Sites

  1. Pan-Seared, Oven-Roasted Thighs with Grainy Mustard & Beer Sauce (finecooking.com/recipes/pan-seared-chicken-thighs-beer-grainy-mustard-sauce.aspx)

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