Baked chicken with a light lemon marinade brings a welcome relief from the indulgence of holiday treats and dishes.
It's that time of year when I temporarily switch over from dessert recipes to "real food" recipes. It's partly because I've been baking so much over the holidays that yes, even I burn out on baking and sugar. Don't worry, that particular insanity really does pass (give me another week or so). In the meantime, I still have to eat and as part of every new year, I make a concerted effort to cook for myself and stop eating out or getting takeout for my sustenance. Actually, I've been getting better at cooking for myself (not necessarily the results, just the act of cooking) and as has been the theme with real food recipes this year, Pinterest provides a lot of possibilities.
Case in point is this recipe for lemon chicken I found on Pinterest from Juju Good News. This is a healthy rendition of lemon chicken where the main ingredient really is lemon. I still have a bunch of lemons from my mom's lemon tree and she keeps asking if I need more. Since I'm not baking, I decided to repurpose the lemons into a savory dish in an attempt to use up the bounty. Plus, my friend Hongpei gave me a rosemary plant for Christmas so this had the added bonus of using a fresh herb I already had.
If you make the recipe as is, this is a pretty healthy choice, even healthier if you leave off the butter. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts and had half a piece over a bed of salad greens (squirt of lemon as the dressing) for my dinner. I know, I know, you think someone's hacked my blog and this couldn't possibly be me. Would it help if I said I followed up that singularly healthy dinner with a chocolate chip cookie baked in a ramekin and topped with vanilla ice cream? See, it really is me.
In any case, if you make this recipe, I don't advise using chicken breasts. As I've discovered (more than once but I keep forgetting), they dry out too easily. I baked mine a trifle too long so yup, they were a bit dry. There isn't much "sauce" although the lemon does permeate the chicken nicely, especially considering I marinated it overnight. So stick with the thighs or drumsticks per the original recipe.
However, all is not lost if you do end up with sauceless, slightly dry chicken. I searched for and found a recipe for lemon sauce (bonus: it used up more lemons). I may have to stock up on lemons after all the next time I go to my mom's. This sauce is reminiscent of the sauce for lemon chicken in Chinese restaurants and is also thick, thanks to the cornstarch. Don't be afraid to go big on the lemons – you want that nice lemon flavor.
From Juju Good News
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2-4 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks (I used chicken breasts)
2-3 tablespoons melted butter
Thinly sliced lemons, for garnished
1. Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag. Seal the bag and shake well to blend. Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more. Refrigerate and let marinate for 2 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degree F. Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving the leftover marinade. Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.
3. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until the skins are crispy and well-browned. Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish. Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with lemon slices and serve.