Lemon chicken may be a mainstay of Chinese restaurant menus, but I never order it.
Battered to oblivion, and tossed with a gloppy sauce that tastes more of sugar than citrus, it just doesn’t appeal.
Melissa Clark’s “Sauteed Chicken with Meyer Lemon,” however, is much more my style.
The veteran cookbook author and New York Times food writer does swaps out the deep-frying for stir-frying instead. That means this dish comes together in no time and with no mess.
What’s more, you can really taste the fresh, bright Meyer lemon in this dish.
A cross between a Eureka lemon and a mandarin, Meyer lemons aren’t as puckery. They have a hint of sweetness and a beautiful floral fragrance. And they shine magnificently in this dish, rind, flesh, and all.
To tame the bitterness of the pith, the thin slices of lemon are quickly blanched, then slightly pickled with a dash of salt and sugar.
The lemon pieces are stir-fried with leeks, garlic and strips of chicken thighs tossed with fresh rosemary. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice finishes the dish.
Serve with rice, couscous or over pasta — for a lemon chicken worth celebrating.
Sauteed Chicken with Meyer Lemon
(Serves 4 to 6)
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced rosemary
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ Meyer lemons
2 tablespoons sugar
2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon oil, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper.
Trim the ends from 1 lemon, quarter lengthwise and remove the seeds. Slice quarters crosswise into 1/8-inch slices.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the lemon slices, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain under cold running water. Rinse out the pot and refill it with 1 cup water, the sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil. Drop in the blanched lemon slices and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain under cold running water, pat dry.
Heat a skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons oil. It should start to shimmer immediately; add the lemon slices and stir-fry quickly until golden. Stir in the leeks and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until leeks are soft and golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute. Push the leek mixture to one side of the skillet; stir in the chicken mixture and sear, without moving, about 4 minutes. Mix in the leeks and continue cooking until the chicken is no longer pink, about 3 to 6 minutes more. Drizzle with juice from the remaining lemon half, to taste.
From Melissa Clark, as printed in the New York Times
Meyer Lemons II: Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake by Martha Stewart
More Meyer Lemon Recipes To Try: Meyer Lemon & Thyme Hearth Bread
And: Preserved Lemons