A better kind of lemon chicken

One of the joys of Canberra is the four distinct seasons, and of all of them Autumn is my favourite. Although this summer wasn’t as bakingly hot as it has been for the last couple of years, it was still hot enough that I’m enjoying the beginnings of briskness in the mornings and snuggling in a warm bed at night.

If you try to eat seasonally, particularly if you grow some of your own food, Autumn is the best time of year. I live in a cul-de-sac of eleven houses, four of which have veggie gardens, and it’s quite common to see someone or other ambling across the road with a handful (or a box) of excess produce. It was our turn last week, when our neighbour Kev dropped in with two lovely early butternut pumpkins from his patch. I’m hoping for some figs, as our tree is tiny. It’s one of three in this street and the next grown from a cutting from No. 8′s magnificent tree.

One of the best arrivals with the cooler weather is lemons. Meyer lemons seem to be the most commonly grown variety locally because they tolerate cold fairly well, but I spotted the first fresh thin-skinned Eurekas of the year at Choku Bai Jo last week. While they’re very common and often cold-stored to sell over the summer, freshness really brings out their appetising sharpness. I love their colour too which is more “lemony” than intensely yellow.

 

The other ingredient I had around and was keen to use plenty of is biodynamic garlic. We’ve been buying organic and/or byodynamic garlic for quite a while now, so the prices for a home delivery of a kilo of Patrice Newell’s Garlic wasn’t as frightening as it might be if you’re used to the (irradiated, Chinese) supermarket stuff. It’s excellent garlic, with a pungent, intense flavour that the imported crap can’t approach (that’s it in the picture in my last post).

I had no idea that all garlic harvested in Australia is harvested in November. The site suggests that from May it can start sprouting. I’ve always understood – although I can’t remember from where – that sprouting garlic was worthless. But I’ve also heard that you can cut out the sprouting germ, and I know you can plant some. Our garlic arrived at the end of January, and I’m a bit pissed off sad to see that some has started to sprout already, but perhaps my storage method – open in the box it came in, in a dry warm room – wasn’t quite so good as I thought. What’s left is now hanging in one of those orange mesh bags in the kitchen. If you haven’t snapped some up yet, there’ll be no more available until the next harvest, but you can register your details at their site.

Thinking lemony-garlicky brought me to braising, and chicken, and I ended up adapting this recipe a little. This is how good it looks before it’s even made it to the oven -

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Ingredients

1 organic and free range chicken, jointed (or buy pieces if you fancy)
4 medium waxy yellow potatoes
3 merguez or other lovely spicy sausages (mine were from Meat Guru in Civic)
1 Eureka lemon, cut lengthways in eighths
1/2 a preserved lemon, flesh removed, skin julienned
half a dozen sprigs of lemon thyme (which we grow, but thyme is fine. Rosemary would work too, but use much less.)
a bunch of sorrel (*optional As is everything else, of course, this being the food blog of a suburban mother with no culinary enforcement squad.)
2 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled

Method

Heat the oven to about 180. I say “about” because my oven is crap, so do what your oven tells you.
Peel the potatoes and cut each crosswise into about three or four fat slices. Brown them in a little olive oil and remove from the pan, then add a smidgen more oil and brown the seasoned chicken pieces. Brown the sausages and cut into chunks of a similar size to the potatoes.

Put the potatoes, chicken and sausage chunks in a casserole with a cover. If you used something other than the casserole to brown everything, deglaze it with some vermouth and scrape all the yummies in. If you used the casserole itself, splash in some vermouth and/or white wine (not too much). Tuck the garlic cloves and lemon pieces in here and there and strew over the herbs and preserved lemon.

Cook covered for about an hour, then toss in a bunch of very finely chopped sorrel. You might need to add a splash more vermouth (or you could use stock). I won’t tell if you put a knob of butter in to enrich the sauce, although it’s not necessary. Cook it for another half an hour or so, but keep an eye on it, and remove the cover at the end if the juices need a little thickening up.

You won’t need any starchy base for this, as it already has potatoes, although I cooked some mograbieh in chicken stock for the carb-hungry kids. You will need a big green salad, preferably one with some bitterness and substance to the leaves. You could also try some wilted greens, such as the last of your rainbow chard. Which is a bit sad, but delicious.

Don’t skimp on the garlic, either – it becomes a vegetable here, sweet, mellow and warming not at all harsh and bitey. It might appear from the recipe to be a too-intensely lemony dish, but the flavours are complex and layered rather than a full-frontal single-note lemon assault. Not to forget that the highly flavoured sausages need something capable of standing up to their punch. It’s delicious, but doesn’t reheat as well as I’d hoped. This means you should have seconds if you feel like it.

I made this again recently, and while I was tempted to try it with chick peas (one can = 1/2 cup soaked and cooked) I bought some Dutch Cream potatoes at the Epic market on Saturday and wasn’t able to ignore them. I’d run out of vermouth, and had no dry white wine, so I used white wine vinegar to deglaze the pan, and that was fine. I considered caramelising the cut surfaces of the lemon wedges, but I decided that was stupid overkill.

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I’d taken the lemon thyme out, in case you were wondering, because it looked brown and sad. And no need to mention the state of that casserole dish, thank you very much. I already know.

20 comments ↓

#1 Dr Sister Outlaw on 17.03.09 at 10:32 am

Oh yum … hey, do you think you’ll have a surfeit of sprouting garlic? I wouldn’t mind putting some in the ground and I don’t want to be propagating irradiated Chinese garlic.

#2 Miss Schlegel on 17.03.09 at 10:39 am

I am dying of wanting to make this immediately, but am still in my pyjamas, and the shops have banned me from turning up in my pyjamas, frantically waving print-outs around.

I have sprouts coming up from failed/neglected garlic — I’m cutting the leaves off and using them like garlic chives.

#3 Rachel on 17.03.09 at 3:54 pm

Sorry to hear about the sprouting garlic, but according to my grandfather, now is a good time to plant (at least in Western Australia). He has had a bumper crop every year now and keeps the entire extended family and most of his neighbours supplied with fabulous garlic.

Store the garlic in mesh bags (good to see you’ve done that now!) and hang it up in a cold dry place. I always keep them well separated from both potatoes and onions and they seem to last longer.

The recipe looks lovely and I will give it a go (but likely with fresh rosemary because it is taking over the garden) and chorizo. Thank you!

#4 Laura on 17.03.09 at 4:32 pm

Dorian grew us some lovely garlic last year, from memory it was planted in June and harvested in December, when the tops started to die back. It’s so juicy when it’s fresh

#5 ampersand duck on 17.03.09 at 4:41 pm

What’s wrong with the casserole dish? It looks lovely and used, unlike many I’ve seen which are never taken out of the wedding present box.

#6 ampersand duck on 17.03.09 at 4:41 pm

Should I have said ‘that’ rather than ‘which’? Mmm, yes. Never mind.

#7 FDB on 17.03.09 at 6:33 pm

Lovely recipe &c &c, dying to make it… can Anne substitute, I dunno, toothpaste for the lemon peel/

Anyway, now that garlic is on the agenda. Does anyone know how, when (why?) to go about trying to grow those garlic stems? I’ve always assumed they’re just the flower spikes, but does this make them like the antithesis of growing for bulbs?

#8 Francis Xavier Holden on 17.03.09 at 8:15 pm

What would happen if one left out the sausage. In my mind it clashes but maybe in reality it works better.

#9 Zoe on 17.03.09 at 9:15 pm

Dr Sista, you were quick, but not quick enough! The Canberra Organic Growers’ Autumn planting guide says I can sow April/May. Thanks too, to Rachel and Laura for growing encouragement.

FDB, do you mean the ones from the Chinese grocery? Not a clue, I’m afraid. US blogs every spring go nuts about “ramps” which are curly green garlic tops that I’ve never found here.

FX, the sausage doesn’t fight the other ingredients – they’ve had an hour and a half to get acquainted. If you were leaving it out, I’d maybe chuck in half a cup or so of olives/capers/prunes etc – something with a gutsy kind of flavour.

#10 anthony on 17.03.09 at 9:33 pm

I had a packet of cacciatore sitting in the fridge not doing much so thanks for the tip – yummy garlicky goodness filled the house this evening
FX you’d have poulet au citron – there’s a Richard Olney one hereusing a roux.

#11 anthony on 17.03.09 at 9:37 pm

FDB those garlic stems are garlic chives or nira. Koreans chop them up and put them on pancakes, which are reet tasty.

#12 FDB on 18.03.09 at 7:43 am

Nah, they ain’t the ones Anthony.

They’re round and they’re not leaves. Here’s a pic:

Reckon they’re the same thing as Zoe’s ramps.

#13 claire on 18.03.09 at 8:54 am

Oh, YUM Zoe! This recipe will most certainly get filed away for a rainy autumn day. Thanks! :)

#14 Zoe on 18.03.09 at 9:26 am

Nah, the ramps look like an indigenous American wild herb.

There’s a picture of ramps and one of green garlic at this Amateur Gourmet post.

#15 Anthony (another one) on 18.03.09 at 9:30 am

I’m with Dorian on this: I recall years ago being told to plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest.

#16 FDB on 18.03.09 at 12:44 pm

In my garden in Louise St, Nedlands years ago, there was a kind of garlic chivey thing growing rampantly, but not normal garlic chives (nira) and not normal garlic either.

Very dark green, fleshy flat leaves, maybe 50-60cm tall, mild and tender.

So I guess there’s lotsa garlics out there.

#17 Zoe on 18.03.09 at 1:40 pm

Here’s what I found for “nira grass” - I’ve seen the yellow (grown in the dark?) version in Asian groceries as yellow chives.

The “garlic greens” here seem to be what FDB has pictured above.

#18 GB on 18.03.09 at 5:58 pm

Oh this looks fantastic. I am newly acquainted with your blog courtesy of CBR times magazine and look forward to checking it out in detail.

yay for excess produce – I have been the happy recipient of figs for the past few weeks now……heaven!

#19 Zoe on 19.03.09 at 7:48 pm

Lucky you, GB. Our fig’s only two so while there’s a few fruit, I don’t think we’ll be celebrating any excess this year.

#20 Emica on 03.04.10 at 4:54 am

when i was in Barcelona 18 months ago with my mum we bought the fattest, baddest, stinkiest garlic from Bocqueria markets and used it to rub on toasted bread with tomato (pan con amb). Since then I’ve been on a quest to get good garlic.

I’m quite lucky that the Waitrose (posh supermarket) stocks spanish, rather than Chines garlic, which always smells and tastes a bit metallic and seems to be dry.

I tried the very expensive garlic from the farmers market (one pound 20p for a head) but it wasn’t any better than the supermarket stuff. He does do garlic-related products and I’m told his smoked garlic is amazing.

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