Mellow-Yellow Chicken

I have to say, I don't really cook chicken too often. Other than the white sauce-covered bbq chicken or panko-crusted chicken fingers, chicken isn't usually something I think of with much interest. Part of that is, I think, because chicken is not usually very aspirational. My first tentative forays into cooking started with chicken, from the butter-drenched fried chicken I'd make for my family in high school, to the burnt-to-a-crisp, heavily seasoned chicken Dave and I made together when experiencing cooking for ourselves for the first time. It's not like there's anything wrong with chicken, but it can get boring, and, to me, falls in the same category as potatoes as something without very strong flavor that can be a vehicle for whatever spices or sauces you throw on it.

So when I do happen to stumble across a new pan-fried chicken recipe, I generally email it to myself and then promptly forget it, until it's 5:30 and I'm starving and bored and still need to go shopping and hel-lo chicken! Like last night!

I found this lemon-saffron-green bean salad-chicken recipe online at the Food Network, and the different mix of spices (as well as the quick prep and easy clean up) made it a good candidate for a late Monday night dinner. Because I am me, I swapped out the green bean salad part (I had some half-hearted idea to eat an actual salad, but lost interest in the face of battle), and my lack of honey and mint meant it had a little less flavor than I would have liked. But, it was moist, interesting, and had a nice mix of spices (mellow yellow from the saffron, lemon). A keeper, in my opinion.

This was one of the easiest (cheapest) grocery trips; all I needed was a lemon and some chicken, since I had all the other ingredients at home (except I forgot the honey, which I could have sworn I had a lot of...). Things started out simply enough: I boiled a lightly-pierced lemon (smelled wooonderful) and marinated my chicken. With 50 minutes until the lemon would be ready, I showered, cleaned my room, and watched some Family Guy, pleased, as I always am when this happens, that I wasn't being lazy--I was cooking!

Next, I pan-fried the chicken, during which GIANT FLAMES shot out of the pan. This was my very first grease fire, and I did ok! No burnt chicken, I just plopped the lid on top of the pan, turned on the oven, and hoped my roommate didn't notice. I de-pulped the lemon and diced the lemon peel, then put the chicken on a plate and coated with lemon juice. I sprinkled on the diced peel, a little sugar (to substitute the honey), and some salt, then settled in to eat.

It wasn't bad! The lemon peel, which I was a little weirded out to eat at first, was actually pretty good--light and springy (best to dice as small as possible, around the size of red pepper flakes). The sugar didn't add much, mostly I think because I was afraid to add too much, but I bet the honey would taste fantastic. All in all, it was cheap, easy, reasonably good for you, and still pretty tasty.

1 lemon, preferably unwaxed
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste, divided
Pinch saffron
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/4 pound skinless boneless chicken breast, pounded to 1/2-inch thick
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper

Prick the lemon in 3 or 4 places with a fork and place in a small pot with 1 teaspoon of salt and cover with water.
Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 50 minutes or until the lemon is very tender.
In the meantime, mix the saffron, mint, garlic, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt in a small bowl.
Pour the marinade into a sealable plastic bag, add the chicken and let it marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat a large skillet or grill pan, coated with olive oil.
Cook the chicken for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until cooked through.
Cut into bite-sized chunks.
Slice the ends off of the lemon and slice it in half lengthwise.
Scoop out the pulp.
Dice the peel into very small pieces.
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, lemon, and thyme.
In a small bowl combine the rest of the lemon juice and the honey, whisk in the remainder of the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Pour the dressing over the chicken and serve.

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