Total time: 1 hour, plus 12 hours chilling
4 chicken legs (about 1/2 pound each)
About 2 tablespoons mild-tasting olive oil
1 onion (about 1/2 pound), root end trimmed flat, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
About 1/2 cup dry white wine
About 2 tablespoons dry white vermouth
About 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
A few black peppercorns, barely cracked in a mortar
About 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
About 1 tablespoon honey
About 8-10 ripe fresh figs
1. Trim the excess fat from the chicken, season evenly all over with salt (we used a scant three-fourth teaspoon per pound of chicken). Cover loosely and refrigerate. This is best if refrigerated 12 to 24 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Pat the chicken legs dry; this will make them less likely to stick. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, then add the chicken legs, skin side down. The oil should sizzle, not pop explosively, when you add the chicken. Adjusting the heat as necessary, cook until the skin is evenly golden, about 8 minutes. Turn the legs over and color only slightly on the other side, about 4 minutes. Pour off the fat.
4. If your skillet is ovenproof, arrange the onion wedges in the spaces between the chicken legs; otherwise, transfer the chicken to a shallow flameproof braising dish that will easily hold the chicken and onions in a single layer and add the onions. Add the wine, the vermouth and enough stock to come to a depth of about a half inch. Bring to a simmer and add the bay leaf, thyme and cracked black peppercorns.
5. Place, uncovered, in the oven, and cook until the meat is tender but not quite falling off the bone, about 40 minutes. The exposed skin will have turned golden and crisp; the liquid ought to have reduced by about half. Remove from the oven and set on a slight tilt so the fat will collect at one side of the pan.
6. Combine the vinegar and honey and warm slightly. This takes 10 seconds in the microwave. The vinegar should dominate but without making you squint. Trim the stems off the figs and cut them in half.
7. Skim as much fat as possible from the braising liquid, then set the pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and swirl as you reduce the liquid to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Distribute the figs evenly around the pan, add about 2 tablespoons of the vinegar-honey syrup and swirl the pan to diffuse the bubbling, amber syrup without smashing the tender fruit. The sauce will be glossy. Taste -- it should be rich and vibrantly sour-sweet. Add more of the syrup, to taste. The vinegar will fade with boiling, so simmer for only a minute or less.
8. Serve each chicken leg with two wedges of sweet, soft onion and four or five fig halves, bathed in a few spoonfuls of the sauce.
Each serving: 358 calories; 173 mg sodium; 90 mg cholesterol; 15 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 26 grams carbohydrates; 28 grams protein; 3.87 grams fiber.