A first generation immigrant who cooked for a mixed race household, my mom always managed to come up with quick clever meals that bridged the gap between east and west. Amongst my favorite dishes was a concoction of chicken, ketchup, lemon peel and brown sugar. It was sweet, savory, and marvelously comforting.
This honey lemon chicken is my grown-up take on that childhood favorite. Less sweet and more tart, I like to use tomato paste and honey for the more concentrated flavors they provide. For the lemon, I add the juice in addition to the zest, and instead of cooking strips of zest, which tends to make the sauce bitter, I prefer shaving a little zest directly onto the finished chicken before serving it. This not only imbues the chicken with the bright fragrance of fresh lemons, it doubles as a colorful garnish.
The great thing about this honey lemon chicken is that it makes for a quick weeknight meal with ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen. Serve it with rice, pasta or potatoes and a side of green veggies.
Honey Lemon Chicken
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 pound chicken thighs, cut into 2" chunks
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, lemon juice, water, honey and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper and then dust with the flour.
- Heat a pan over medium heat until hot and then add the olive oil and garlic, swirling the oil and garlic around the pan. If you are using skinless chicken, add an extra teaspoon of olive oil.
- Add the chicken in a single layer and fry undisturbed until browned on one side (about 5 minutes). If the chicken starts spattering too much, remove the pan from the heat and use a paper towel and tongs to sop up some of the extra oil.
- Flip the chicken over and fry the second side until the chicken is mostly cooked through (another 3 minutes).
- Remove the pan from the heat and use paper towels to sop up as much oil as possible.
- Return the pan to the heat and add the sauce. Turn up the heat and cook the sauce down until there is almost no liquid remaining and the chicken is coated with a thick layer of glossy red sauce.
Yield: 2-3 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.