I so far haven’t written about a recipe unless I really enjoy it (I’ve yet to document any of my kitchen fails, as Laura so awesomely did), but there are definitely varying levels on my enjoyment scale. There are the tasty but not precisely thrilling recipes that sneak into my weeknight rotation. Good, even great, and often notable especially for their easiness, but not exactly life changing. A perfectly lovely side of the scale. I don’t expect life changing from every or even most of my weeknight dinners, after all. But then. Then, there are the rare awesome recipes that pull me up short and make me say “oh YUM” out loud when I take my first bite. Recipes that I immediately want to make again, and can’t wait to proselytize about to anyone who will listen. Shutterbean’s lemon chicken is squarely on that side of the scale.
I made it on a whim, and it was a great reminder that a super simple looking recipe can result in a fantastic complex taste. On days when I know I want to make something for dinner but don’t know what I actually want to make, I usually browse around online for recipes during lunch. I did this last week, hunting through Pinterest for things I’d thought looked good but haven’t yet been inspired to actually make, and sent Hal two possibilities: a pasta with chickpeas and sausage that I was sure he’d go for, and this lemon chicken. He surprised me by voting for the chicken, and I’m SO glad he did. One short ingredient list–the whole recipe is just chicken, lemon, onion, garlic, olive oil, oregano, and thyme–and a few very simple steps later, and I had a dinner I told Laura I was “unreasonably excited about.”
This recipe has a lot of the charm of roast chicken, in a lot less of the time. And with the added benefit of a seriously delicious sauce, perfect for spooning over rice. Olive oil and lemon are tossed over chopped onion, with some added flavoring from oregano and thyme, and together with the cooking chicken these flavors turn into something really special. There’s bright tartness from the lemon, mellowed by sweetness from the cooked onion, and a nice hit of extra savoriness from the spices. The onions soften beautifully (Shutterbean talks about delicious crispy bits of onion on the edges of the pan–I didn’t get those the first time around. Maybe with a longer cooking time / slightly higher heat? Either way, I didn’t really miss them), and soak up so much tasty goodness from the sauce.
Tracy’s post included the note, “if you want to make the sauce creamier, add a little butter at the end.” Obviously I did want, so obviously I did add. I was very happy with the results, but might try the recipe with all olive oil next time, because my faith in the flavors tells me it would be just as great. This time around I served it with brown rice to soak up the sauce, and a side of sauteed chard that also benefited from a hit of extra onions. Honestly, my mouth is watering as I write, just remembering how good this dinner was. Definitely a sign of a dish on the very best end of my enjoyment scale.
1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs, if you want to follow the original recipe)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for pan
juice of 1 1/2 large lemons, plus 5-6 slices of lemon
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt & pepper
4ish pats of butter (optional, but highly recommended)
Preheat oven to 375F.
Mix together olive oil, lemon juice, onion, garlic, thyme and oregano in a medium bowl until well combined: you want all of the onion really covered. Lightly coat a baking dish with olive oil, and add chicken. Pour onion mixture over chicken and toss to coat. Place lemon slices around the chicken and season with salt & freshly cracked pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on the thickness of the chicken), until chicken is thoroughly cooked through. When the chicken is almost done (say, down to 5 minutes of baking time), add a few pats of butter to thicken up the sauce. Place back in the oven to finish cooking. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven, cover the pan, and let chicken sit for 5 minutes before serving.