Sticky Lemon Chicken with Gremolata

Chicken, lemon, olive oil… what great ingredients!  Capers, lemon, parsley, shallots… another classic mix.  Put the two together, and fireworks in the pan!  This recipe is savory, sweet, a little crispy, and 100% delicious.  The first step takes a few minutes and requires a little patience, but if you’re willing to invest the time (all of 45 minutes), the reward is well worth the wait!

One of the biggest keys to making this successful is ensuring the lemon is cooked through, and ABSOLUTELY no pith (white layer under lemon zest) is incorporated into the dish.  This has a deeply bitter flavor that will permeate and ultimately ruin your dish.  I finish with a gremolata, which is traditionally used to finish deep meat braises (osso busso is the classic).  This adds a bright, piquante and citrus finish, contrasting perfectly with the aromatic and sweet lemon chicken.  It cuts it, adding the wonderful and coveted balance we always need in complex dishes.  

Prep time: 20 minutes
Total cook time: 1 1/2 hours
Yield: 4 portions

Ingredients:

5 lemons plus 1 reserved
2 tbsp capers, drained and rough chop
1 large shallot, fine chop
1/2 bunch parsley, rough chop
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
extra virgin olive oil
vegetable oil
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup homemade chicken stock
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp corn starch
kosher salt
cracked black pepper
1 whole chicken, 16 (chinese style) pieces, or ‘picnic’ style store bough chicken (smaller the pieces, the better)

Method:

Using a zester or sharp vegetable peeler, remove all zest from the lemons, being careful to leave the pith (white part).  Fine chop the zest.  Place all the lemon zest in a small sauce pot with cold water and bring to a boil.  Strain, refresh the zest under cold water, and repeat the blanching process.  Do this three time.  Place the triple blanched zest back in the pot, add the sugar and 1 cup of water.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer until tender, about 1/2 hour.  Let cool to room temp and reserve.

Zest the reserved lemon with a micro-plane and chop until very finely chopped.  Mix the parsley, capers and shallot with the lemon zest.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and a about 1 tsp of olive oil.  This is a gremolata, and will be used to finish the chicken.

Season the chicken with paprika, salt, pepper, corn starch and a little olive oil.  In a heavy bottomed saute pan, gently brown all sides of the chicken in vegetable oil.  Remove the chicken from the pan and let drain on paper towels.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any baked on bits.  Let the wine evaporate almost completely.  Add the stock and reduce by half.  There should be only a small amount of liquid left in the pan now.  Put the chicken back in the pan and about 1/3 of the reserved lemon zest and syrup.  Squeeze a small amount of fresh lemon juice into the pan to add brightness.  Let cook until sticky and slightly caramelized.  Turn heat off, add 1/2 of the caper mix (gremolata), toss well to incorporate, and place chicken on a platter.  Drizzle a little more candied lemon over the top along with the rest of the caper mix.

Serve right away.

I love this chicken with sauteed mushrooms, grilled vegetables, and steamed rice pilaf.

Enjoy

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