I’m a bit late with it, and everything else this year, but at last it’s time for the Best Recipes of 2015!  And what a wild mélange it is.  Between reviewing for the Boston Globe and the Washington Post and having a big hand in NPR’s year-end cookbook coverage, I’ve seen a huge range of books this year  But as always, there’s just a few memorable recipes that have demanded, and won, a place in my regular repertoire.

The book:  A Bird in the Hand, by Diana Henry (Mitchell Beazley, $29.99)

The recipe:  Bourbon & marmalade drumsticks

Why I tried itI have a thing, sort of, for bourbon.  It’s the only hard liquor I thoroughly enjoy, and I’m willing to try it in just about anything short of an egg salad sandwich.  So I had already experienced the joys of bourbon and orange conjoined in splashy matrimony.  Also, no matter how many great chicken recipes you have, you can always have another.

Why I loved it:  This is one of those recipes that’s so much more than its half-dozen ingredients would suggest.  It reminds me of the first time I made black-currant glazed pork chops a million years ago – it was so shockingly easy, and so shockingly good, I felt like I’d committed a crime.  This is like that.  Most of the work gets done by the marinade (which takes 5 minutes to put together) over a couple of leisurely hours while you surf the internet, paint your nails, and do whatever it is you do when you’re not cooking.  Then a 45-minute (cocktail time!) blast of heat roasts the drumsticks, sets the glaze, and transforms the whole thing into a sticky, gorgeous mess.  You might as well eat it with your fingers, since you’ll be licking them afterward anyway.  Besides, silverware might be too much work.

Estimated preparation time:  Couple hours to marinate, 1 hour to preheat & roast – but seriously, only like 15 minutes active time.

Photo credit: Laura Edwards

Bourbon and marmalade-glazed drumsticks
serves 4

8 drumsticks
½ cup orange marmalade, divided
4 tsp Dijon mustard, divided
3 tbsp bourbon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 red chiles, halved, seeded, and minced
2 oranges (preferably thin-skinned), halved and cut into ¾-inch thick wedges
salt and pepper

Make small slits in the drumsticks with a sharp knife. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the marmalade and 1 teaspoon of the mustard. Set aside. In another bowl, mix the remaining marmalade—squash it down with the back of spoon to break it up—with the remaining mustard, the bourbon, garlic, and chiles. Put the chicken into this and roll it around so it gets well coated. Cover and put in the fridge for a few hours (or leave it all day, or overnight if you prefer). Bring it to room temperature before cooking.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat the oven to 410°F. Put the drumsticks—with all the marinade and any juices—into a roasting pan or gratin dish where they can lie in a single layer. Add the orange wedges. Turn the chicken and oranges over so that the oranges get coated in the marinade, too. Season everything with salt and pepper.

Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the drumsticks are cooked through, glossy, and almost caramelized. In the last 10 minutes of the cooking time, brush the top of the drumsticks with the reserved marmalade and mustard.
Transfer the oranges and drumsticks to a serving platter and spoon some of the juices evenly over the top. You can’t eat the orange skin, but the flesh is nice: sweet and tart.

From A Bird in the Hand: Chicken Recipes for Every Day and Every Mood by Diana Henry/Mitchell Beazley