Rehana from Rehana Du Jour again!
We’re back at the chicken game but it won’t be for any plain Jane chicken recipe it’s for a jazzed up one – Za’atar Crusted Lemon Chicken!
This wonderfully quick, zesty, and crisp dish will become a weeknight staple in your home. I am constantly trying to figure out new ways to spruce up a chicken breast, and this Middle Eastern take is definitely a winner. For this recipe, I use za’atar, which is a blend of herbs like thyme, oregano, sumac, sesame seeds, and other seasonings. No two blends are the same, but every one that I have come across is delicious. The za’atar is mixed into the marinade with other ingredients and then seared and baked in an oven for maximum chicken juiciness. It has a zip to it from lemon and a poke from some red pepper flakes, but the balance of flavors has a wonderful result. I hope you try this one out!
First, you’ll need to make the marinade. In the marinade I add in 1 tablespoon of za’atar to the bowl you will marinade your chicken in . I got this as a gift and am exploring new ways to use it up and have some recipes coming your way!
Next, you’ll want to add 1/2 of a lemon, juiced (about 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice), one tablespoons lemon zest (1 whole lemon), three tablespoons of olive oil (not extra virgin – don’t need to use it up in a marinade, any good ol olive oil will do), two chopped cloves of garlic, one tablespoon chopped parsley, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes.
Marinade the chicken in this mixture for 4 hours to overnight. The longer the chicken sits, the more delicious and flavorful it will be. Don’t marinade it longer than a day though, you don’t want funky chicken. And, if you’re in a bind you could marinade it for a shorter amount of time, but it won’t taste the same in the thickness of the chicken, but the crust will be delicious!
When you’re ready to cook the chicken, you’ll want to pull out your grill pan and preheat your oven to 450 degrees, as we are going to cook the chicken using a direct heat (grill) and indirect heat (oven) to get the most moist chicken we can. Just because it’s chicken breast doesn’t mean it has to be boring! If you are using an indoor stovetop grill, you can go along with the next steps, if you are grilling outside, then you know what to do at this point.
Before cooking any meat, I take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before and let the chill come off the meat. This will allow for less of a shock for the protein and won’t toughen up your meat too quickly.
Heat your stovetop grill to high heat and put the chicken breasts, dripping off the excess marinade (it will just crust and stick to your pan) and sear the chicken. You’ll want to cook the chicken 5-7 minutes per side, or until you get a nice sear and crust on it.
If after 5-7 minutes, your chicken registered 160 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, put the chicken in the oven, either on the grill pan if there are no plastic or non oven-proof parts, or on a baking sheet for 5-10 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked.
The most important step in this entire recipe is this one: let your chicken rest! This will allow the chicken to settle down, finish cooking, and will redistribute the juices within the chicken. If we cut into it right away, it would just seep all the juice out onto the cutting board, and that’s flavor we don’t want to lose. So be patient, it will be rewarded!
After its done resting, top the chicken with a squeeze of lemon juice and serve with your favorite sides. For dinner, I added scallions and parsley to my steamed basmati rice and quickly sautéed some artichoke hearts in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
I hope you try this recipe out. If you do, let me know how it goes!
- 3 chicken breasts
- 1 tablespoon za’atar
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and marinade the chicken for four hours up to overnight
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees
- Grill your chicken on high heat, cooking 5-7 per side until you get a nice sear
- If the chicken is not fully cooked (160 degrees Fahrenheit on a meat thermometer) then place in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until fully cooked
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes
- Top with an extra squeeze of lemon juice