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My Mom makes awesome lemon chicken. This isn’t it.

I’m not allowed to make hers anymore. See, I tried to make hers once — years ago before I had a decent kitchen or knew how to cook. I called and got the recipe, gathered the ingredients the best I could (wine had to be omitted since I was underage and couldn’t get any), and set off to make a delicious dinner. I’m not sure what happened, but what I ended up with wasn’t delicious at all. It was actually pretty gross. Shawn, who loves my mom’s version, has never let me live it down. Occasionally I’ll say something about wanting to make lemon chicken, but he just gives me a look and begs me to please just make something else.

This time I promised him it would be different. I wouldn’t use Mom’s recipe. In fact, I would make it as different from hers as I could, and the only similarities would be that it included lemons and chicken. He hesitantly said ok, so I came up with this recipe. It was a success!

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The highlight of this dish is the sauce, which is a lot more like a gravy than my mom’s version. The sauce is very bright, and the lemon flavor is extremely powerful without being at all tart or sour. I kept the seasonings simple, with just some thyme and leeks, which I cooked right in the pan with the chicken so they would soak up the lemon while infusing the sauce with their subtle flavor. Together, the lemons and the leeks scream “spring!” and this is the perfect dinner for a rainy March or April night. I served this with rice, but mashed or roasted potatoes would also be nice with the sauce.

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Lemon Chicken with Leeks and Thyme
The chicken legs I used in this recipe were extremely small — only about a quarter pound each — so they cooked up very quickly. If you’re using larger legs, you’ll want to be sure to adjust the cooking time. If you use a thermometer, pull them out of the oven when they reach 160. If you don’t care for leg meat, you could also make this with thighs or breasts. I left the skin on while these cooked, but discarded it before I ate. Nutrition information is calculated with skin. I also prefer to use organic lemons, which I find to have a much less astringent and much more “lemony” flavor than conventional lemons.
  • 4 chicken legs (approx. 1 Lb)
  • Zest and juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 large leek, cut into half moons
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 Tbs cold butter
  • pepper to taste

Combine the lemon zest, garlic, thyme, and salt in a small dish. Rub this mixture into the chicken and set aside to rest.

Place a large, oven proof pan over high heat. Add the oil. When the oil is heated, add the chicken. Cook until the skin turns golden and begins to crisp. Add the lemon juice and the leeks to the pan, cover and transfer to a 425-degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160-degrees.

Remove the leeks and the chicken and set on a plate tented with foil to keep them warm. Place the pan on a burner set to medium heat. Whisk in the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add the lemon slices. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to about half. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the chicken and leeks.

Serves 4
Approx. 117 calories, 7 grams fat, 4 grams fiber, 3 grams protein

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