Friday, October 2, 2009

Lemon Chicken with Pine nuts and Green Olives

We eat a lot of chicken at Chez Maggie and Jeff’s—grilled, roasted, baked, stuffed, as well as in endless ethnic-inspired dishes (so much so I refuse to order it in restaurants!). We most often eat chicken during the week, marinated in something simple like salad dressing and thrown on the grill with some veggies. But sometimes I like to dress it up a bit, elevating the ubiquitous fowl to something special.

This lemon chicken recipe comes from Matthew Kenney’s Mediterranean Cooking. Kenney’s recipes marry simple ingredients to produce sophisticated fare that is not hard to make. We’ve made many recipes from this cookbook, but the lemon chicken is one of our favorites. The combination of lemons, honey and olives tickles your taste buds with its sweet and savory notes. The simple sauce is in a word—awesome!  
Lemon Chicken with Pine Nuts and Green Olives

Serves 4 (Note: chicken needs to marinate for at least 6 hours)
½ cup olive oil
1 lemon, zest cut into julienne strips and juice reserved 
Crushed red pepper
2 Chickens (2 ½ pounds each)
¼ cup pine nuts
salt and pepper
5 tbls. grated onion
1 tbls minced garlic
1 tbls. minced fresh ginger
Pinch of saffron
1/3 cup pitted green olives
2 tbls. honey
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbls. butter
2 tbls. chopped cilantro

Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, and a pinch of red pepper. Rub the chickens with the marinade, cover, and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put the pine nuts on a metal pie plate or pan and toast for 9-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Set aside. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Remove the chickens from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and season chickens inside and out with pepper. Truss the chickens. Heat a flame proof baking dish or roasting pan over high heat on top of the stove. Add 1-2 tbls. of olive oil from the marinade and brown the chickens until gold on both sides, 7-8 minutes. Place oven and roast for 35-40 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside. Pour out all but 1 tbls. of fat.

On top of the stove over medium-high heat, add the onion, garlic, and ginger to the roasting pan. Cook until onion just begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add a pinch of red pepper, the pine nuts, saffron, olives, and lemon juice. Scrape the pan with a spoon and let the liquid reduce slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add the honey and stock and reduce by half, about 6-7 minutes. Finish the sauce by swirling in the butter and adding the cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Remove the trussing from the chickens and carve or quarter them. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with couscous.

Tips and Tidbits
You can substitute pre-cut chicken parts (legs, thighs, chicken breasts) if you don’t want to truss a whole chicken. Brown them and cook as directed, but be aware that cooking time will be less, approximately 25-30 minutes.
Cooking for two: We made one chicken but all the sauce. The sauce freezes well, and we’ll use it next time we grill chicken.
You can reduce the fat by omitting the two tbls. of butter in the sauce. If you want a thicker sauce, mix a tsp. of a potato starch and water and stir in. I don’t eat the chicken skin.

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