I hope that among the few readers of this blog out there, (hi, family!) there are at least one or two who are as interested in what didn’t work in the kitchen, as they are in what did. This post was supposed to be about lemon bars, one of my favorite cookies and something that never struck me as particularly complicated to make. After using up the better part of a dozen eggs and juicing even more lemons (you can see the carnage above), the cookies came out of the oven looking very sad – a strange brown, cracked crust covered the sunny yellow color, exactly as some of the epicurious commenters had warned that it would. After 24 hours the bars firmed up and where actually addictingly good, but the aesthetics of the cookie still made me feel that the recipe was a bit of a failure. So, this left me with a lot of photos of lemons, and nothing to really show for it. But then I remembered a lemon chicken recipe from American Masala, (yes, that same cookbook) that was really phenomenal. So clearly, my baking fail was meant to be. It’s all about those silver-colored linings, no?
This was a chicken recipe that merited a “you should make this again” from Terence, and a feeling of satisfaction from my own picky viewpoint. I would make this in a heartbeat for any non-vegetarian guest who came over, but it’s simple and pantry-friendly enough to have on any busy weekday. The genius ingredient is sugar. It raises it to a “best-ever” status with me.
**In case you were curious about those lemon bars, I had taken this recipe, doubled the filling and tripled the lemon flavor, added lemon zest to the crust, and decreased the sugar to two cups instead of three. They came out with just the right lemon flavor (which is, to say, a lot) but were, as I mentioned very ugly looking. If anyone has a winning recipe, do let me know.**
Best-ever Lemon Chicken
From American Masala by Suvir Saran
- 4 chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 lemons, zested, 1 juiced and the other cut into wedges
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt (less if using sea salt)
- 2-3 teaspoons ground peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, 2 of which are cut into small pieces
Prick the chicken all over with a fork and set aside. Whisk the balsamic vinegar with half of the lemon zest, salt and 2 teaspoons of ground peppercorn in a large bowl. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or overnight. Mix the sugar with the remaining lemon zest and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-safe skillet or braising dish until very hot, about 2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter, and once melted, place the chicken, skin side down, in the skillet along with the remaining marinade. Cook until the chicken is browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes, and then flip each piece and cook for a minute longer. Sprinkle some of the lemon sugar and a little more ground pepper over each pieve of chicken and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast the chicken until it is completely cooked through, about 25 minutes (my oven runs hot and it was more like 15-18 minutes.) If you have a thermometer, you will know it’s done if you insert it into the thick part of the thigh and it reads 165 degrees F.
Remove the chicken from the oven and scatter the butter pieces and plenty of fresh lemon juice over it. Serve once the butter is melted, with some of the pan sauce drizzled over the chicken and with lemon wedges on the side.