The Best Lemon Chicken Recipe

Backstory:

I used to love to make lemon chicken. I find the sweet tangy fruit flavor mixed with chicken to be super delicious. But somewhere along the way, I experimented with one too many different recipe ideas. Maybe it was the longer cooking time resulting in dry meat, or the fact that I should have known there was entirely too much pepper in the recipe; whatever it was, the end result was so unappetizing that I had avoided cooking with lemons almost exclusively. That is, until yesterday.

A Breakthrough:

I had bought a couple bags of lemons from Trader Joe’s to preserve (here’s one way to do it) but I noticed that unfortunately mold was starting to take over a couple in the corner. I quickly threw away the moldy ones, and let the others sit pretty in a dish on my counter. I walked past those lemons all day wondering “how am I going to use them?”. I know that I only need one or two to make the lemon-poppyseed muffins I’m baking for the base bake sale so I needed to use them up.  Chicken was on the menu last night but I hadn’t decided how I was going to cook it. None of my usual ways of cooking chicken (usually different combinations or individual use of garlic, cinnamon, sage, various italian seasonings, BBQ. I promise to post some of those recipes here soon, too) sounded good. I looked at the lemons and then back at my frozen chicken breasts… And finally summoned up the courage to try it again!

Ingredients:

– Four servings (4-6oz per serving) chicken breasts

– 1 organic lemon (zest, additional juice, and rind)

– 1/4 cup lemon juice (or simply juice more lemons to get this separate amount)

– 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

– 2 T of Earth Balance Buttery Spread (or butter if you can tolerate dairy)

– 1 tsp maple syrup

– 1/4 tsp black pepper (more if desired)

– salt to taste

– pinch of italian seasoning (or any combination of individual italian herbs)

Instructions:

– Combine lemon zest, lemon juice (both fresh-squeezed and other), 2 T of olive oil, 1 tsp maple syrup, and black pepper in a small bowl.

– Preferably, marinate the chicken in this mixture for at least 20 minutes.

– After preparing the chicken, put at least another 1 T of olive oil along with the butter in a pan over very low heat. Cut the rind so the the remaining flesh is pan-side down. Let sauté while waiting for the chicken to be done marinating. The rind will need to be flipped occasionally and moved around. It will also look like it’s blackening a bit; that’s okay because it’s just the sugar caramelizing and will make your chicken taste amazing.

– Turn up the heat to medium. Place chicken and marinade in the pan. Sprinkle italian herbs across the chicken.  Depending on the thickness of the cuts, cook thoroughly until chicken has an interior temperature of 165° and is no longer pink in the middle. While cooking, be sure to flip the chicken and also to spoon the juice (which will thicken a bit) over the chicken periodically.

– Serves 2-4 people, depending on what you serve with it.

Side-dish Ideas:

I paired the chicken with a mix of sautéed garlic veggies: sugar snap peas, pepper strips, and peas. This combination compliments the dish by balancing the meal. Rice could be served in addition, if wanted.

Comments:

– This dish is wonderful for summer! It’s on the lighter side and very refreshing. Plus, it would be easy enough to scale the recipe to feed a group of people. It’s a great alternative to barbecuing.

– It’s a budget-friendly dish. Especially if you buy a a large amount of chicken breast at a time, like I do. Buying in bulk saves you money (not to mention if it goes on sale) and guarantees you always have enough on hand, no matter who decides to show up! I buy a big package of 6-8 huge chicken breast and cut them in halves or thirds to get a single portion. I then freeze two servings in small freezer bags and defrost as necessary. I highly recommend it.

Peppered ginger chicken stir-fry

I am a huge fan of stir-frys and this one turned out very flavorful and well-rounded.
 

INGREDIENTS:

– 1/2 of a yellow onion (a smaller one), chopped

– 1 scallion, finely chopped

– 1 garlic clove, minced*

– 1/4 of an orange bell pepper, chopped*

-1/4 of an green bell pepper, chopped

– 1/3 cup peas (I used frozen)

– 2 small carrots*, thinly sliced

– 2 stalks celery hearts*, thinly sliced

– 1/2 of a roma tomato, chopped

– About 1/2 cup pre-cooked chicken*, cut into small pieces (maybe more)

– 1/2 cup of brown rice*, cooked.

* All ingredients marked with an astrick are USDA-certified organic products. I try to buy organic as much as a possible. (More on this topic in a future post) *

ADDED SPICES:

– 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (if preferred and to taste)

– 1 tablespoon soy sauce, gluten-free.

– 1 tsp ground ginger

– 1 tsp olive oil + 3 tablespoons water, to add to the pan.

– 1 cup water, for rice.

– pinch of salt, for rice.

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small pot. Once boiling, add rice and a pinch of salt and cover with the lid. Reduce heat to medium low so that the boil reduces to a simmer. Let cook for about 45 minutes, or as instructed on the package.

2. Place the olive oil and water combination a large pan over medium high heat. Add vegetables. Cook on high for a couple of minutes, adding 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of ginger, and red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to very low, place lid on, and let it slowly cook for 45 minutes, or until the rice is ready.

3. Once rice is cooked, and has set for several minutes, add it to the pan with vegetables. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce and 1/2 tsp of ginger.

PROS:

• Inexpensive. And could be made even cheaper with frozen veggies.

• Versatile. Any vegetables could be swapped for the ones I used. Likewise, the chicken could easily be replaced with beef, shrimp, tofu, etc.

• Great use for leftovers. I used pieces of chicken from a whole chicken that I roasted the night before, and the vegetables that I had on hand.

• Easy. Aside from chopping the vegetables, this recipe takes minimal work.

• Healthy.

• Can be made in big batches.

CONS:

• Takes a long time to prepare.

• Only serves 2. However, could serve more if recipe was doubled or tripled.