Friday, February 24, 2012

Very Lemon Chicken and Fruited Couscous

This week's post is a "two-fer", courtesy of a recent girls' getaway weekend in the sun. Among other strenuous activities like shopping and lounging at the spa, we managed to make a delicious yet healthy dinner of very lemony chicken and couscous with dried fruits and almonds. Either recipe can stand alone or be combined with other foods but they go particularly well together. Both make great dishes to take to any large gathering since they can be served warm, cold or room temperature.  As the chicken cools the sauce thickens to a syrupy consistency which then can be drizzled over the chicken when served.  The last time I made the chicken I served it cold over a fresh spinach salad and it was truly delicious.

The couscous has lemon notes that echo the lemon chicken in addition to dried apricots, golden raisins, currants and toasted almonds that give it a slightly Mediterranean feel.  If you don't like any one of the dried fruits feel free to substitute but don't leave them out altogether - they lend a slight sweetness that really makes the dish.

So here are my friends that participated in making (and eating!) the meal.  They insisted on previewing the picture before they would allow it on my blog, and they also insisted that it should not be full-length.  I have good-looking and funny friends - Jessica, Michelle and Karrine.

Very Lemon Chicken
Serves 4

3 lemons
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6-8 oz each)
1/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
½ cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grate the zest from two lemons and set aside. Sprinkle the juice from one of the lemons over the chicken breasts (reserve the second lemon). Mix the flour, salt and paprika in a large zip-top bag and shake one chicken breast at a time in the mixture. Remove from the bag and shake off any excess flour. Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces and then discard the flour.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and fry until lightly browned on both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a foil-lined baking dish.

Thinly slice the remaining lemon that was not zested. Top each chicken breast with the reserved zest, the thyme, and lemon slices. Put in the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, juice the remaining lemon that was zested. Add the chicken stock and brown sugar to the juice, stirring until the sugar dissolves. After 20 minutes of baking, top the chicken with the lemon-sugar mixture. Bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until the chicken tests 180 degrees on a meat thermometer. Baste with the pan juices halfway through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and serve, or cool and refrigerate (covered) until ready to serve, up to two days. Spoon any pan juices over the chicken when served.

* * click here for a printable Fruited Couscous recipe * *

Fruited Couscous
Serves 4

1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 cups couscous
1/3 cup finely diced dried apricots
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons dried currants
1-1/2 teaspoons dark Asian sesame oil
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup sliced green onions including 2” of green tops
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium lidded saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in couscous, apricots, raisins and currants. Cover and remove from heat. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Uncover pan and fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in sesame oil, lemon zest and juice, parsley, and green onions. Taste and season with salt. (Couscous can be made 20 to 30 minutes in advance. Keep covered in pan.)

Serve sprinkled with almonds. May be served warm or cold.

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