Saturday, 16 April 2011

Why did the Chicken cross the Road?

Pollo al Limone con Erbe Aromatiche
Lemon Chicken with Mixed Herbs

Probably because it saw me coming at it with a cleaver. Or with a bag of mixed herbs, lemons, mushrooms and potatoes and an exceedingly hungry expression. See, that's the way it was this evening... but the chicken didn't cross the road- it stayed-put in my kitchen and got turned into a nice Mediterranean dinner.

Okay- first things first: no big surprises here... this is another of those dishes made with no added fat or oil. I skinned a chicken thigh and drumstick and removed the bones and sinews. It really isn't that hard. Cut into the joint, snap the two bones apart, cut through the connective tissue and you are ready to go. Make one deep cut along the length of the bone and then cut into the flesh around the joint. Carefully scrape down the bone with your knife and remove the meat in this way. The sinews are a little trickier... but if you grab hold of them tightly and scrape along them with your knife, you should be able to push the meat away from them in a similar manner. It's a bit of work, sure... but if I made the effort, you can too! A skinless chicken-breast may seem like an easier alternative- but the meat IS less flavorful and more likely to end up being less juicy as well.

Get your grill pan nice and hot and pop your chicken in there- don't keep moving it, let it just sit and brown in its own juices. In the meantime slice some potatoes. Flip the chicken over and put it onto the other side of the pan- now put the potatoes on the side of the pan that your chicken was to take up the good juices. Season the chicken with salt, pepper and a little cayenne. Give it 5 minutes, turn it and season the other side. Remove from the pan and replace it with some lemon slices. Make sure to season the potatoes and to flip these too. Once the potatoes and lemon slices are nicely browned, remove them from the pan too. The juices from the lemon will de glaze the pan and the slices will become very caramelized and brown and full of flavor. Use these in an oven dish as a base for your chicken and potatoes. Add a couple of cloves of garlic and a generous amount of rosemary and thyme. At this point you can add a light drizzle of olive oil, a little more salt on the potatoes and a light dusting of nutmeg. Sprinkle everything with a little white wine and pop it into a medium oven, covered with aluminum foil, for 15 minutes. As an afterthought, I threw in a handful of chopped celery to add a little savory note as well.

Whilst the chicken and potatoes are cooking away, thickly slice some mushrooms and pop these onto your grill pan. Not oil! Keep the heat moderate and they will be ok... sprinkle them with salt and pepper and just let them sit for 2-3 minutes. you will notice that they will start to give off a little of their own juices- this is the time to flip them and season the other side. Mushrooms consist of basically 90% water... let them just sit and the will wilt down a little whilst getting a nice toasty color to them. This really will work with no added oil if you are careful and you WILL have a much more intense and delicious flavor as a reward. Or do you want to have sloppy, greasy, rubbery pieces of mush like you usually do? That is NOT why they are called mushrooms. And please... NEVER wash mushrooms! They will soak up water like a sponge and definitely be awful. Either brush them clean, or take a small knife to the undersides, pinch the edge of the mushroom, and peel the outer layer away... like I do. It is VERY easy to do. And again... if I can do it then you can too!

By now your chicken and potatoes will be ready to flip over. Put them back in the oven without the foil, under the broiler, for 5-10 minutes till they are nice and brown. By now, the herbs will be pretty sorry looking from all that baking... remove them and then add a drizzle of honey to the chicken. Not only will this give the chicken a wonderful glaze, but the sweetness will counterpoint the mild acidity of the lemon and wine.

I served mine on a simple bed of romaine lettuce and added fresh rosemary and thyme as a garnish and to add a little freshness. I also added a few threads of shredded chili pepper for a bit of extra "oomph"- these are very decorative and much milder than fresh chili.

The caramelized lemon slices are wonderful to squeeze out and the juices, infused with the herb and garlic flavors and really delicious. Together with the potatoes, mushrooms and salad this makes of a really tasty, light and refreshing summer meal. A glass of pinot grigio should seal the deal nicely for you... buon apetito!

Oh, and I guess you have deserved my favorite "chicken crossing the road" joke from my childhood after reading all this.

So here ya go:

Why did the chicken cross the road twice and roll in the dirt?
Because he was a dirty double-crosser.


  1. In looking at the picture, I would think that this dish was very difficult. However, your crystal clear instructions have changed my mind. Thanks for sharing such a well written and beautifully executed post. I look forward to seeing more of your posts. Happy blogging.

  2. Thanks so much for the positive feedback Tina!
    I hope you give it a go and enjoy!
    Best wishes, Francesco