Too Good Not To Share: Lemon Balsamic Chicken
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works; tentatively named “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015.
I’m not a big chicken parts kind of girl. I like a nice buttery roast chicken, and I like chicken soup. But chicken parts with stuff grilled/broiled/baked in? I’ll eat it without complaint, but I don’t leap for the recipe. Honestly, chicken is a little too cooked for me. I like a good steak, maybe some duck or lamb. I like a piece of meat with some life in it, and by life I mean blood. If chicken bleeds, it’s likely to make you sick, and I hold that against it.
But something in this recipe made me pause. All that lemon zest was enticing, and mostly I made it because Tammi told me to.
Tammi has a blog that you should be reading. I’ve never met her, but every time I’m in her kitchen by way of her writing, I laugh. I really laugh. I snort, and I spit out my coffee. She’s funny, but she’s so real and full of heart, which makes it even easier to laugh. She’s also really on it when it comes to food. So when she told me that this was the best chicken ever, I said okay then—the best chicken ever is good enough for me. Bring on the chicken parts.
The whole family was coming over—that’s us plus my mom and stepfather and sister, and I got a lot of chicken parts. I stuffed handfuls of green beans into a bag at the store, threw a little sack of orzo in the cart, and dinner was only a few zests of the lemon away.
And the chicken? Yes, I think it was perhaps the best chicken ever. It was one of those dinners that we couldn’t stop talking about as we ate—“wow. good chicken. yeah. this is good chicken.” Although I have to say that cold the next day, it might’ve been even better. This would be a damn fine picnic chicken, if you’re the sort who brings cold chicken on picnics (which I am not, but that might change after this one).
And I really mean it about Tammi, go over to her site and peek around. Just make sure if you are drinking coffee that you aim away from your laptop if you are prone to snorting when you laugh.
I adjusted the salt and sugar to my own taste. The original recipe calls for double of each.
8 chicken pieces (legs and thighs)
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 lemons, zested, 1 juiced, and the other cut into wedges
2 tsp. kosher salt
2½ tsp. ground pepper
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. canola oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
Prick the chicken pieces all over with a fork and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar with half of the lemon zest, salt, and 2 tsp. of the ground pepper. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or overnight. Mix the sugar with the remaining lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat the oil in a large, oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Melt 2 tbsp. of butter, and place chicken skin-side-down in the pan along with the remaining marinade. Cook until the chicken is browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes, and then flip each piece over and cook 1 minute more. Sprinkle some of the lemon sugar and remaining ½ tsp. of ground pepper over the chicken and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until chicken is completely cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F, about 25 minutes.
Remove chicken from oven. Cut remaining 2 tbsp. of butter into small pieces and scatter around chicken. Pour lemon juice over everything. Once butter is melted, serve with pan sauce drizzled over the chicken and lemon wedges on the side.