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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lemon Chicken...Italian style

How many times have you looked at that bottle of limoncello in the freezer and thought "My god, that must have been there for at least two years. What are we going to do with it?!" I know we're not the only people to be lured in by the romance of this Italian lemon liqueur: remembering warm summer evenings on a loggia, with a warm breeze tickling the leaves of trees in the olive grove and flowing through your hair, and sweet lemon flavour slipping down your throat. Admittedly, I've only experienced that scenario in my winter-in-Melbourne dreams, and in my life limoncello tends to burn all the way down and makes me cough. Somehow the dream just isn't quite recreated that way you intend, is it?
So, we've had this bottle of liqueur in the freezer for a long time, and I can't remember where or when I found this recipe, but it's just the thing if you find yourself in a similar perplexed state when cleaning out the freezer. I know it was from a food blog, so do let me know if it is yours.
Chicken baked in limoncello...what an idea! It sounds a bit outrageous, and I wasn't sure how it would work out, but the best way to describe it is Lemon Chicken, Italian Style. It really does work well; the sweetness of the limoncello is balanced by fresh lemon juice and summery herbs. I didn't have quite enough limoncello, so made up the difference with vodka....hey, it's all alcohol, and I know people who'd be pretty excited at the idea of chicken baked in vodka.
The ingredients listed are not set in stone; I didn't have lemon thyme, so used fresh rosemary and sage instead. I also added a touch of Spanish paprika to the sauce, which gave a hint of smokiness. Also, my chicken breasts didn't have skin, and in fact 2 of them were actually thighs, as I discovered as I started eating them! I have to admit I preferred the texture of the thighs to the breasts, but I'm a thigh girl after all.... It's a perfect meal for a warm summer's evening, even if it doesn't take place on a Tuscan hillside.
Read on for the recipe:

Chicken baked in limoncello

4 x 180g chicken breasts with skin on
8 garlic cloves
Pared rind & juice of 2 large lemons
6 sprigs lemon thyme
1 cup (250ml) limoncello
50g unsalted butter
2 tbs olive oil

-Place chicken in a non-metallic dish with garlic, rind & juice, thyme & limoncello. Cover & chill for one hour.
-Preheat oven to 180c. Heat butter & oil in a large heavy based frypan over high heat.
-Remove chicken from marinade (reserve marinade) & brown for 2-3 minutes each side.
-Place skin side up in a baking tray & roast for 10 minuts or until cooked through.
-Return frypan to medium heat, ad reserved marinade (including garlic & herbs) & stir for 5 minutes to reduce.
-Remove chicken from oven & rest for 5 minutes. Place on a serving plate, pour over sauce.
-Serve with rice or mashed potatoes and green veg.

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