Memories of Lemon Chicken

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At one time, whenever someone mentioned lemon chicken, all I could think of was this neon yellow, heavy battered, deep-fried chunks of meat from chop-suey style Chinese take out.   I had lived in Regina for over ten years, and at that time ( and even now) you could not get any decent Chinese food, the only ones were either covered in black beans sauce or in bright red and yellow colors.

When my mom declared to me once ( when she was still able to cook) that she was going to make lemon chicken for supper, I was kind of worried that she might feed me that horrible bright yellow stuff.  But when the dish made its appearance on the dinner table I could not believe my eyes.  They were definitely not the ones I was thinking of, the chicken was slightly fried to perfection in a lovely shade of golden brown, and instead of the yellow stuff that camouflage as lemon, these lovelies were coated with pieces of lemon zest, mixed with honey and real lemon juice.  They were so delicious, oh yum !

That was the good old years when mommy could still cook up a storm in the kitchen.  Unlike the instant noodle chef who considers anything more than an hour is a waste of time, this woman would spend hours in the kitchen.  For her cooking is an art, an act of love, and she would spend the whole morning dicing and cutting all her ingredients to uniform sizes.   I remembered coming home to a house full of different smells,  and the stress of the day  would magically disappear !  Now she is in her 90’s and is constantly plagued by pains and aches of old age she no longer can cook, we can only remember the old days, oh, how  I miss her cooking !

Lemon chicken is never quite the same after I tasted mommy’s.  I have to confess that I will never be able to create the dish the same way. I just don’t have her finesse and her patience.   This is definitely my comfort food.  So when I came across the recipe for roasted lemon chicken, I got a little sappy as I relish the memories of her cooking.

My chickadee #3 birthday is tomorrow, he is a  valentine’s baby and I decided to cook lemon chicken to celebrate his coming of age.  Hopefully lemon chicken will bring  some pleasant memories for him in the future as it did for me.

Happy Birthday kiddo.

Recipe from Hapa Bento

Lemon Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces.  I removed the skin, but you don’t have to.  I also buy free range chicken.

1/4 cup of light shoyu

1/8 cup of mirin

splash of sake (optional)

juice of 1 large lemon

1/8 cup of pureed fresh ginger

1/8 cup of honey

1/8 cup of cornstarch

Lemon zest

Preparation:

Combine all the ingredients except the corn starch and lemon zest.

Marinate the chicken for more than an hour for best flavor.

After the marination phase place the chicken and mixture  in a skillet  and cook at  medium-high  and simmer until it comes to a boil.  Stir constantly.

Working quickly, mix the cornstarch with water or liquid from the pan until it’s dissolved.  While the chicken is boiling pour the cornstarch mix over the chicken and continue stirring.  The liquid will immediately thicken.  it might turn lumpy.   It’s okay because these lumps will act like a crust when it’s roasted.  The idea is coat the chicken with the thickened sauce.  Turn off the heat and get ready to roast.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  When it’s nice and hot,  remove the chicken from the skillet then place the pieces (not touching each other) on a pan and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes until browned.  Any bits of lumpy cornstarch will crisp  and create a sticky crust.  Turn them over and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Garnish with lemon zest and serve.

This chicken doesn’t have a strong lemon tang but you can easily adjust by either adding more lemon to the marinate or glaze with lemon juice while roasting.

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