Lemon Lime Chicken (and a giveaway!)
(Read to the end for another giveaway sponsored by A Cork Above!)
Citrus and chicken go well together in many cuisines. Many southeast Asian areas, Latin America, and the Caribbean cook or marinade chicken with citrus, and there's always the American suburban grill classic of lemon pepper chicken. I went Asian/Latin with the concept for this dish, with some classic French techniques thrown in for some refinement.
The chicken was sauteed and oven roasted with ginger, garlic, and shallots, and the sauce was a gastrique of sugar and rice vinegar with lemon/lime zest and juice, cilantro, chives, and red jalapenos. I served the chicken with some quick-fried tortilla strips for some crunch, similar to Asian-American chow mein noodles.
A common Asian starting point for sauteing is the "mirepoix/trinity" of ginger, garlic, and scallions. Sometimes, I like to fusion this by substituting shallots for the scallions. It doesn't give the "greeniness" that scallions can bring, but sometimes shallots can add a sweetness and subtlety, while still providing an onion bite.
The chicken breasts were on sale for a really good price, and once I got them home, I realized why -- they were skinless, but not boneless. For a braise or roast, I'd love to keep the bones in, but for this recipe, I actually wanted the breasts to be boneless, so I had to do a quick deboning (while saving the bones and ribs for chicken stock). After deboning, I salted with kosher, and added some cracked black pepper and a dusting of flour to make a nice texture.
I started the sauce with a gastrique of three tablespoons of brown sugar, and a little water. I simmered this until the water boiled out and the sugar started to darken a little more.
I took off a tablespoon (total) of lemon and lime zest, and added it to the simmering sugar with about a 1/4 cup of rice vinegar.
I squeezed in the juice of a lemon and lime, and added about 1/2 cup sparkling wine.
To this, I added a cup of chicken stock, and reduced the whole sauce down by half.
While the sauce was reducing, I preheated the oven to 400 and heated a 12" pan over medium-high until sizzling hot. I added some peanut oil, and when that was nearly smoking, I added the Asian trinity.
Once the shallots and garlic had started to brown a little, I added a little more oil, then tossed in the chicken breasts to brown.
I flipped them, then tossed them in the oven (it's okay that the shallots and garlic brown some more -- they're for flavor and aromatic impact only)
While the sauce continued to reduce, and the chicken finished off in the oven, I shredded some corn tortillas as thinly as I could with a chef knife. I heated some peanut oil to 375 or so, then, in several batches, fried until crispy, dusting with kosher salt as each batch came out.
I wanted a big impact of fresh herbs in the sauce to go with the citrus, and because it's Spring and my herb garden is exploding nicely. So, some chopped cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, and chives were minced, and a roasted red jalapeno was chopped finely, and all were added to the sauce right when it was done cooking so the flavors wouldn't be lost.
Plating was chicken breast with sauce over a light young-green salad, with the tortilla chips and some citrus slices in the background.
Deconstruction: This was a really tasty dish, yet hard to pin down in cuisine. The citrus taste was as good as I hoped, and with the cracked pepper on the chicken, did throw me back a bit to lemon-chicken meals. On the other hand, the mix of Asian and Latin with the herbs and aromats was just as noticeable, so there was a wonderful pan-World flavor to everything, along with the nice thickness and familiarity of a French gastrique, similar to, say, a canard a l'orange. I try to mix cuisines from far-flung regions of the planet (if they go well together), and in this one, flavors (and cuisines) kept jumping out, but overall, it was a tasty meal just in itself. This is one I'll be making again.
Giveaway: A Cork Above is once again sponsoring a giveaway for this post! This time, we're offering three types of gourmet olives: Jalapeno Infused, Garlic Infused, and Cajun Infused green cocktail olives. They work well in specialty martinis, but they also work well in cooking. Imagine a shrimp creole with the vinegar bite of olives added to the okra, but with some Louisiana spice kick to make it really come together. Latin and Mediterranean dishes also benefit from the vinegar and olive mixed with regional spices! Check out A Cork Above for gourmet ingredients, and hard to find wines and spirits.
To win the olives, leave a comment to this post. On Monday, May 10th, a random number generator will pick a random comment and that person will win the olives! Good luck!