Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lemon Chicken

Chris generally gives me a hard time when I use the word great. "Is it really great" he'll say with a scrunched up, question mark face. I overuse it, yes. I think that he is right and great has lost it's meaning. Everything is great these days but in fact very little is actually great. Most things are good, pretty good or very good. Amazing is a whole other ball of wax. 

But when I say my mother is a great cook, I mean my mother's skills as a cook rise above and beyond the norm to a place of, dare I say, excellence. No Michelin guide has ever visited our dinner table and Zagat has never stopped by for lunch but I think that most people close to her would agree, that she is great. Especially Chris.

In the early evening, while my father works in his studio painting Wild Killer Rocking Horses and Demon Creatures, my mother is upstairs chopping, measuring, sauteing and boiling to the sounds of Terry Gross and All Things Considered on NPR. She has always felt that no matter how good or bad your day was, you can always come home and cook a good meal.

Some meals are simple, broiled chicken with new potatoes and garlicky spaghetti squash prepared just right, but most of the time they are small masterpieces, homemade linguine with a creamy tomato sauce, crispy scallion pancakes and vegetable stir fry, Lebanese chicken with yogurt, green enchiladas with tomatillos from the garden, Thai crispy fried tofu, flaky corn and tomato empanadas with fresh salsa, flounder baked in parchment with julienned parsnips and carrots and the list goes on and on.

Occasionally my mother takes it to the next level and has been known to make tofu from scratch, get up every three hours during the night to check on a simmering broth for a New Years Eve dinner, make a mansion sized gingerbread house with poured sugar windows and a yule log that could have been sold for several hundred dollars. I think the meringue mushrooms nearly did her in.

But of all the meals she has made over the years one of my all time favorites is lemon chicken. It is easy to make and goes with almost any vegetable or starch and when I eat it, I can faintly hear the theme song for All Things Considered in the background and I feel like I'm home. 

Lemon Chicken
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
salt + pepper
2 tbs. parsley, finely chopped
olive oil
1 lemon, sliced in half

Rub the chicken breasts with kosher salt, rinse and pat dry. To make four cutlets, lay the breasts flat on a cutting board and with a sharp knife, blade flat, slice across the breast so that you have two. This will cut down on the cooking time. Whisk the egg in one bowl and in another, combine the bread crumbs with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat about 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. When the oil is hot, one at a time, take a piece of chicken, dip it into the egg and then let any excess drip off. Next, lay the chicken in the breadcrumbs and gently press the crumbs all over the chicken turning it once or twice until it's evenly coated. Lay in the hot pan and brown on both sides. When the chicken is browned, squeeze half the lemon over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley. Flip the chicken over and do the same on the other side. Cook a few minutes longer until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Serve hot with peas and buttered egg noodles. A little applesauce with nutmeg would be good with it too.

try to use breadcrumbs from a local bakery or the bakery section in your grocery store. I used whole wheat bread crumbs from whole foods yesterday, that came in a can, and they were not good.


  1. I wish I'd listened to you and saved some for lunch today ! xx

  2. This is such a simple (and seemingly delicious!) recipe. There goes my typical "what's for dinner tonight" conundrum - what a mainstay. Thanks!

  3. You're right. Your Mom's a genius. And you are too!

  4. i am going to make this tonight. to be continued...!

  5. I use dried bread crumbs or Panko. I think a soggy mess would be the result with fresh crumbs. Oh, and I add a tablespoon or two of butter with the olive oil. I guess Erica's way is healthier though! Thank you for the lovely post, dear daughter! xox

  6. I will never forget her flaky corn and tomato empanadas with fresh salsa. Delicious!!! They're G-R-E-A-T. BTW whatever happened to that sequel to HAMLET...Erwin must have it.