Monday, February 16, 2015

Quick and Easy Lemon Chicken

We just got back from an epic trip to Florida.  I say I couldn't live there but I sure do find it hard to come back sometimes after visiting so many of my close family and friends.  In a strange and wonderful coincidence, the 3 girls I had as bridesmaids and I all had baby girls.  Girls rule!

Yes, we did the Disney thing.  Kuen's first trip.  As much as I'd love to get all "Oh gawd, it was Disney and I hated the mind numbing music, crowds, etc.", I actually loved it.  Kuen had a blast.  Aside from 2 rather titanic meltdowns - one experienced when I dared to take her in a race car at the ever offensive Tomorrowland Speedway.  What?  I'm from Daytona?!  She actually got a little violent when I tried the second, even more objectionable Dumbo ride.  The look on her face as she thrashed about as violently as only a 3-year-old can read, "how dare you try to make me fly on this adorably plump elephant with large ears?!"  Other than that, she had a great time and is full-on Disney Princess and Frozen-crazy.  This is something I've tried very hard to rage against but my resolve just melts away when I see how much joy she gets out of it.  I guess she'll just have to learn to love Disney Princesses and still grow up to be a strong, independent girl that doesn't need to wait for a man to be her meal ticket.

*steps down from soap box*

We stayed on property and needless to say, we ate a lot, ON PROPERTY.  Totally by design.  That Walt Disney really knew what he was doing, I mean, what a cash cow?!  They make it pretty hard to get on/off the grounds so it's just easier to stay and make them take your money.  I was happy to see that they actually did allow patrons to bring their own food and beverages in to the park so with a little planning, you can actually get away with a cheap(ish) Disney experience, but we didn't have time for that this go around.  Next time.

How are we going to top ourselves next year??

After 3 days of Mickey Mouse and Disney Princess paraphernalia, 20-80 minute ride lines, being ass to ankles with tourists from all over the globe and sleeping in the same bed as a nocturnally acrobatic toddler, I was ready to leave and have a nice home cooked meal.  I made this a few times while I was down in FL and it was a hit!

The sauce is definitely the best part.

It's one of those really quick meals you can throw together in 15 minutes, pop it in the oven and have some time to play w/ your kid(s) or veg out in front of the TV before the smells from the oven lure you back for some super fresh and delicious chicken.  This is a great make-ahead meal as well and can be prepped for a quick 30 minutes in the oven.  (Cindy - let me know how the crock pot version turns out!)

Note: The dish is very versatile - I usually use chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) because I think it's the most flavorful cut of chicken but I've used drumsticks as a backup.  If you opt for the white meat, make sure it's at least bone-in with skin.  The breasts will likely dry out if you use boneless skinless breast meat. The amount of chicken is scale-able.  I usually use 5-8 pcs of thighs depending on the size.  When I'm making this and serving immediately, I like to take the chicken out of the fridge to take the chill off.  This helps with not only cooking time but more even cooking.

Another note, I'm not writing in any measurements for salt or pepper.  I season all three layers (veg, sauce and chicken) but never measure it.  The amount of seasoning also depends on the amount of chicken you're using and your own tastes.  Just err on the side of caution, you can always add more but you can't take it out if it's too salty.

Quick and Easy Lemon Chicken

adapted from this recipe

serves 3-4

3-5 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (see above note for substitutions)
1/2 medium onion, diced (sometimes I add the whole thing)
1 to 2 lbs potatoes, diced (any waxy version is good - red or yukon)
1 fennel bulb, diced (celery works in a pinch)
2 lemons (cut in half, juice 3 of the 4 halves and slice the last one)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil

optional: your favorite dried herbs - see the original recipe for inspiration, I always forget to include herbs but never miss it

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Dice the onion, fennel and potatoes and place in a roasting pan (you want something that's going to be deep enough to hold all the sauce) and season with salt and pepper.  Juice the 3 lemon halves, add olive oil and any optional herbs, add salt and pepper to taste.  Mix and pour 1/2 the sauce over the vegetables, toss to coat.  Season the chicken pieces and spoon the rest of the sauce over the chicken, coating both sides.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Again, this will depend on how thick the cut is and how cold your chicken is when it starts baking.  I always go by how brown the skin is which isn't scientific at all but hasn't failed me yet.  Make sure you let the chicken rest after it comes out of the oven for at least 10 minutes before serving with rice or noodles.