April 18th, 2014

Lemon Lemon Lemon Chicken


One afternoon, on my way home from the food bank, I stopped by my friend Teresa’s house for a visit.

Teresa is a food stylist and recipe tester, also author of the beauteous blog Food on Fifth. This particular afternoon she was deep in testing mode for Relish Magazine, with a trio of recipes using chicken thighs heading her list: A sage/provolone-filled roulade, a “nonna” style baked with herbed breadcrumbs, and a lemon chicken.

“Lemon chicken?” I mused. “Does the world really need yet another lemon chicken recipe?”

“It just might,” Teresa said. “Stay and judge for yourself.”


Soon, Relish editors Jill and Candace arrived for the tasting of the testing.

We started with “nonna’s” recipe and deemed it respectable, if a bit bland. Number two, the cheese-filled roulade, was a step-up in flavor and dimension.

“I’ve saved the best for last,” said Teresa.


Enter the lemon chicken, roasted to golden, drenched in sauce. Teresa served the thighs with torn hunks of baguette, to sop up the sauce.

“You won’t want to miss any of this.”

Oh, my. The table fell quiet, followed by murmurs of approval. The chicken was succulent under its crackled skin, an intense gush of lemon sparked with garlic, oregano, and a fiery pinch of red pepper flakes. We all sopped sauce and marveled.

What had made this lemon chicken, “the best ever” ?


We examined the recipe–a simple one, at that–and decided that three elements made the difference.

1. The dish is made with the chicken thigh, which is the most flavorful (and economical!) cut. It has a higher fat content and doesn’t dry out like the breast. After you roast it (simply seasoned at this point with salt and black pepper) for 35 minutes, you pour off the fat and liquid–making it ready to accept the lemon sauce.

2. There’s a whole lot of fresh lemon juice in the recipe–figure one lemon per thigh. I add a little zest too.

3. An unexpected ingredient: Red Wine Vinegar. A couple of tablespoons is added to the olive oil-lemon juice emulsion. I’ve never seen that done before, and I believe it really amplifies the rich lemon taste.

I made a large batch of this for potluck, where it was devoured with gusto.
We named the dish Lemon Lemon Lemon Chicken. When you taste it, you get it.


12 cleaned and trimmed chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
12 lemons
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Rinse chicken and pat dry. Liberally season with salt and black pepper. Place skin side up in a large baking dish or sheet pan.
Bake for 35 minutes.
Squeeze the lemons to get 1 1/2 cups juice. Zest 2 of the lemons. Whisk in the red wine vinegar, zest, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano. Finally whisk in the olive oil, slowly, to create an emulsion.
After 35 minutes of baking, remove the chicken from the oven. Drain all the liquid from the pan.
Pour the lemon emulsion over the chicken. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

Serve the chicken and sauce with hunks of crusty bread for sopping.

Serves 6


Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes

22 Responses to “Lemon Lemon Lemon Chicken”
  1. 2 Sisters Recipes Says:

    Oh we LOVE chicken smothered in lemon, garlic and fresh oregano! What’s not to love? Great recipe Nancy! Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful Easter!!

  2. Eileen Says:

    If this could reduce a table full of food people to silence, I think I’m going to have to make it as immediately as possible. Sounds so good! :)

  3. ernestine Says:

    Oh my
    this looks wonderful
    and will be trying soon.
    Thank you once again…

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Ernestine! Hope all is well at your little cottage in the woods.

  5. Adri Says:

    I love lemon-y chicken dishes, and you are so right about thighs having so much flavor. I make a very similar dish, but roast the entire chicken in a pot. Everyone always enjoys it. This one is a winner.

  6. Joyti Says:

    Oh, that sounds great. “The best ever” – interesting!

  7. Lilli @ Sugar and Cinnamon Says:

    Yum! Looks great :)

  8. Beth Says:

    Lemon anything is terrific, and lemon chicken is almost unbeatable. Can’t wait to try this variation!

  9. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    I was so happy to see this Lemon Lemon Lemon Chicken in the oven when we arrived at Wendy’s house a few days ago for Third Thursday Potluck! Sometimes I have very definite & deep “food taste memory” and since our recipe testing/tasting day for Relish I have almost craved this dish! It was just such a delicious surprise recipe…simple with a few twists as in the addition of vinegar to enhance the lemony flavor and using the thighs was just the perfect cut of chicken to use. Your version Nance was just wonderful and fulfilled my craving for this dish for a bit. Wonderful job as always and so beautiful.

  10. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    Evidently the world Did need another lemon chicken recipeā€¦thank you!

  11. fluffy Says:

    my kind of chicken!

  12. Barbara Greene Says:

    This could be the new ” good chicken” recipe! :-)

  13. goodfoodmatters Says:

    I know!

  14. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    oh i can taste the lemons right now! How sweet and tangy and perfect with the chicken. ITs like the 70 cloves of garlic chicken recipe but with lemons instead! SO PERFECT!

  15. Barbara Says:

    Three lemons in the title? That makes it for me! Love the addition of red wine vinegar and oregano. My version doesn’t have that..can’t wait to try this.

  16. Pat Says:

    Great looking recipe! And, yes, the world can always use another lemon chicken recipe. A lot of lemon in this one which will give it flavor, flavor, flavor. Thanks, :)

  17. Juliana Says:

    My mouth is watering just by reading and looking at the pictures…lemon and lemon…sounds delicious Nancy…
    Thanks for the recipe…hope you are enjoying your week :D

  18. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    Your post has my mouth watering. Lemon Lemon Lemon Chicken is in my near future.

  19. heather Says:

    Lemon chicken is one of our favorites!! Thank you for the recipe, it’s different from the one we use. Delicious!

  20. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Heather, this should work well in your gluten-free household!

  21. Deborah Says:

    I fixed this, Nancy, for a casual dinner with friends. Loved it. The sauce is the best for sopping up with bread. So glad I used fresh lemons than the lemon concentrate (which I considered, I’m embarrassed to say) Question: How would you suggest serving — on plate, big pasta bowl? Seriously, that sauce was to die for.

  22. goodfoodmatters Says:

    I am so glad you tried this recipe and enjoyed it. The sauce is soooo good, sop-worthy for sure. I would serve the chicken in a big, shallow pasta bowl to capture all the lemony juices.

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