I appreciate virtually all genre of foods, but one of my absolute favorites is Mediterranean. The textures, bright flavors and use of healthful ingredients (greens! citrus! herbs! olive oil!) make it easy to love. Last week, I woke up one morning with a big craving for Mediterranean, and set out to make something to sate my appetite that evening. The catch? I’m going to Cabo this week. I needed it to be bikini friendly!
Now, lest you read the rest of this recipe and think “bikini friendly?!”, I should note that for me, that meant limited carbs and only healthy fats. I don’t mind being stuffed to the gills if it’s with mostly vegetables! But, my splurges in this recipe included the use of dark chicken meat (which, to be honest, I normally use anyway because I think it has so much more flavor and is easier to cook), as well as a little bit of feta cheese. But otherwise, I think I did pretty well!
Starting with a quick marinade of lemon juice, honey and herbs, I cooked the chicken legs to golden brown deliciousness. While they finished in the oven, I whipped together a side “Greek” salad with tomatoes, cucumber, shallot and feta cheese. I loved that this dinner packed so much flavor and nutrition, but since everything was cooked in one skillet, it was also a cinch to clean up!
Mediterranean Chicken with Honey, Lemon and Oregano, Quick-braised Chard and Greek Salad
Easily serves 2 hungry people; Difficulty Level: Intermediate-Beginner
For the Chicken:
- 3 Meyer lemons (see note at bottom)
- 5 sprigs oregano, leaves stripped, minced
- 1 tbsp honey (more to taste, see note at bottom)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 for cooking
- –kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
- Two whole skin on, bone in chicken legs, split between leg and thigh (you can also buy separately if whole legs are not available), cleaned and pat dry with paper towels
For the Salad:
- 4 extra small vine cluster tomatoes (look for ones a slightly bigger than golf balls — I used the Campari variety), cut into eighths
- 5″ piece of organic cucumber, washed well, sliced however you prefer (I did quarter rounds. Note: you can peel the cucumber if you like, but I personally like the rind, as long as it’s from an organic cuc)
- 1 medium shallot, outer paper peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs oregano, leaves stripped and minced
- 0.2 oz feta
- Juice of half a lemon (use the leftover lemon half from the marinade, above)
- extra virgin olive oil to taste (I used about 3 tbsp)
- –kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
For the Chard:
- 1 whole bunch white Swiss Chard, cleaned, tough white stems removed and leafy greens chopped into large pieces
For the chicken:
Preheat your oven to 375°. Zest two of the lemons and place the zest in a small bowl. Cut all three lemons in half and juice 5 of the halves (2.5 lemons total) into the bowl, taking care to not let any seeds fall in. Reserve the last half of lemon for the Greek salad. Add in the minced oregano, the honey, 3 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Stir until the honey and lemon juice are well emulsified into the oil.
Place the chicken pieces in a shallow baking dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken. If you have time, you can let this sit for 20-30 minutes, otherwise, let it sit for five (I was in a hurry and did the quick marinade, and it turned out great). In a medium oven-safe skillet, heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat until very hot, but not smoking. Add in the chicken pieces skin side down with tongs (do not pour in the marinade yet) and allow to brown on the first side, about 2 minutes. Try not to move the meat around, so it will turn brown without tearing. The honey will cause things to brown more quickly, so keep an eye on it.
When the meat has browned on the first side, quickly turn all the pieces over with tongs and pour in the marinade from the baking dish. Quickly stir with the tongs to release any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. If you are using a pan that has a wider diameter and the amount of liquid looks low, add in a few tablespoons of water. You want the total amount of liquid to be about 1/4″ deep, maybe a tiny bit more. Immediately move the entire pan to the oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes, uncovered, or until the chicken is just cooked through, depending on the size of your pieces and your oven. The juices/sauce will have reduced down.
Remove the chicken from the oven, and transfer the pieces onto a heat proof plate. Using oven mitts (careful!), pick up the skillet and pour about 2/3 of the leftover juices over the chicken on the plate. Tent with foil until ready to serve.
For the salad:
While the chicken is cooking (or marinating, you can do this step during either break), combine all the ingredients for the Greek salad, toss, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Having this extra time will allow the ingredients to meld a bit.
For the chard:
Okay, so your cooked chicken should be resting on the plate and now you have the skillet with a bit of the marinade leftover. Using an oven mitt (’cause remember, the pan is hot since you just took it from the oven!), place the skillet with the chicken juices and reduced marinade onto the stove over medium heat. It should begin simmering quickly, since the pan is already so hot from being in the oven. Add the chopped chard into the skillet, turning with the tongs until it is wilted and cooked through, about 5 minutes. You shouldn’t need to season this very much since the juices in the pan already had seasoning.
To plate, mound a bit of the greens up, place one or two of the chicken pieces on top, and garnish with the salad on the side. Pour as much of the reserved chicken juices over the meat as you’d like.
NOTES: If you can’t find Meyer lemons, use regular lemons instead. You might want to taste the marinade and see if you want to add in more honey, as Meyer lemons tend to be sweeter than regular lemons. You can also try this recipe with chicken breasts if you don’t want to use dark meat, just be SURE not to overcook them, because the moist heat in the oven will quickly make the meat tough if you don’t watch it. Finally, if you have any leftovers and store this in the fridge, don’t forget to pour any reserved sauce over the chicken. It’ll continue to marinate overnight and be extra delicious when you heat it up tomorrow (I did this and trust me, it’s good stuff).