Chicken with Roasted Lemons, Green Olives, and Capers

Lemons, roasted + Olives + Capers = Perfection?  Almost.

I spotted this recipe a few weeks ago as I was hurriedly trying to plan out our week's meals so we could hit the market semi-prepared.  (This is a weekly occurrence with me.  If I could only decide the night before to chose 3-4 recipes to make for the week, rather than 20 minutes before we decide to leave, I (and my wallet) would probably be much better off.)  The dish immediately caught my eye because it seemed incredibly easy and the minimal ingredient list included Mediterranean ingredients of olives and lemons.  Perfection.  Unfortunately, I never had the chance to make it until last night.  

The recipe was simple enough to make but seemed like it took a long time.  Had I purchased pitted olives and if I had a working space larger than a cookie sheet, things might have moved along faster.  Also, I was so engrossed in pitting my olives and catching up on last week's episode of Lost so that I would be prepared for this week's episode, I completely forgot to take photos.  And by the time the dish was plated (at 9pm) I was ravenous with hunger.

(In the absence of not-so-fantastic food photography, I offer this photo that I shot a few years ago in Assisi, Italy.  Olive trees peaking through the fog- appropriate, right? : ) )

I really liked the concept of this dish and the method of preparation- quickly searing the chicken to lock in the juices and develop a crispy outer shell, and then simmering it in a very simple sauce until it is reduced.  This method allowed the chicken to remain moist and tender.  I did not pound my chicken breasts out as many reviewers recommended because my pieces were already quite thin and they seemed to have cooked evenly.  If you find that your pieces are on the thick side, I'd recommend following the recommendations of the reviewers. 

Unfortunately I felt the flavor profile was slightly off, and Dan agreed.  Multiple reviewers noted the olives impart a  bitter edge to the sauce; and they were right- the dish was bitter.  I used green Greek olives but next time around I might used a mixture of green and kalamata olives.  Side dishes of simple mashed potatoes with Greek yogurt and sautéed fresh baby spinach with garlic really helped to take the bitter edge off the dish.  

All in all I was happy with it  and I will probably have another go at it, though with a few tweaks next time around- I will make the olive switch, lesson the butter by half, and I will use a  white wine to deglaze the pan, replacing it with some of the stock.  Another commenter found that adding a can of artichoke hearts will cut the bite of the olives nicely, so perhaps I will try that.
This recipe reminded me of a dish Melissa d'Arabian prepared on the Next Food Network Star.  I made a mental note that I would try to make her versatile Rustic Lemon-Onion Chicken at some point and then I forgot all about it, until last night.  Now, with it fresh in my mind I'll be sure to add the ingredients to this week's market list and give it a try.

Chicken with Roasted Lemons, Green Olives, and Capers

Roasted Lemons
    12 thin lemon slices (from 2 lemons)
    Olive Oil 

    4 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
    All purpose flour
    5 tablespoons of olive oil 
    1/2 cup of green Sicilian olives or other brine cured olives 
    2 tablespoons of drained capers
    1 1/2 cups of chicken stock or low-salt chicken broth 
    1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of butter  cut into 4 pieces (I used unsalted)
    3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley 
       (omitted because I did not have any on hand) 

For roasted lemons: 
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange lemon slices in single layer on prepared sheet. Brush lemon slices with olive oil; sprinkle lightly with salt. Roast until slightly dry and beginning to brown around edges, about 25 minutes. (Lemons can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to container. Cover; chill.)

For chicken:
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour to coat both sides; shake off excess. Heat 5 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Stir in olives and capers. Add stock and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of skillet. Boil until liquid is reduced to syrup consistency, turning chicken over after 3 minutes, about 5 minutes. Add butter, roasted lemon slices, and 2 tablespoons parsley; simmer until butter melts and chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to platter. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.