- Chicken thighs or legs
- Zest of half a lemon
- Juice of lemon, to taste
- Dried thyme
- Button mushrooms, halved
- Olive oil
- Splash of boiling water
This dish is one that has incredibly simple, yet effective, flavours. The combination of lemon and thyme is not uncommon; in fact, type it into Google and it comes up with so many recipes, that perhaps it is one of the most common pairings of flavour! They work so well together not only for their flavour, but for providing moisture and texture, especially in dishes such as this with meat. The chicken in this dish is deliciously tender, absorbing the liquid of the lemon juice for moisture and the zest for flavour. Moreover, not only does cooking with this partnership lock in flavour, it makes a wonderful jus to pour over the chicken.
Although I used dried thyme for convenience, the use of fresh lemon is essential. Using bottled lemon juice would not give the same freshness that this citrus fruit of capable of; the texture of the peel would actually be impossible…it would be somewhat difficult to zest glass. Fresh thyme would only increase the intensity of the flavour of the herb. I’d advise tearing some leaves off the stalk and rubbing into the chicken skin, whilst placing a few stalks whole alongside the chicken to allow them to release their flavours whilst cooking. If you are able to get hold of fresh thyme, definitely use it – the freshness of the herb gives justice to the freshness of the lemon!
I decided to add mushrooms to this dish for extra flavour for the jus, as well as contributing another dimension of texture. Mushrooms contain a lot of water in their composition, and so not only as they cook do they help moisten the chicken, they contribute to the cooking flavours. Adding a splash of boiling water to the bottom of the dish after cooking for the final stages ensures that these flavours created during cooking are not lost, but are mixed to create a jus for the chicken.
This chicken is the definition of ‘prep-then-part’. After giving the chicken the tools to create flavour, so to speak, the oven does the rest, as this dish cooks with foil to lock in moisture, before roasting without the foil to crisp the skin. This dish is best served with mash or potatoes – something comfort-food-esque to soak up the flavours of the chicken and the juice, alongside some fresh green vegetables for colour.
- Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Pour a small amount of oil into the bottom of an oven proof dish. Add the raw chicken, and coat in the oil.
- Sprinkle over the dried thyme, shake the dish lightly to coat the chicken in the herbs. Then, zesting the lemon directly into the dish, ensure the chicken is covered in the flavours.
- Finally, squeeze the juice of the zested lemon to taste over the chicken, and cover the dish in silver foil, and place in the oven for 25 minutes.
- After the 25 minutes, remove the dish from the oven, and using a clean knife poke the chicken – if the juices run clear, add the halved button mushrooms. If not, return to the oven for 5 minutes more and then add the button mushrooms. Wash the knife!
- Remove the silver foil from the dish, and return it with the added mushrooms to the oven. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the skin has gone crispy and the chicken is cooked through.
- Taking the dish out of the oven before serving, the majority of the lemon will have dried away and the cooking juices may be stuck to the bottom of the dish. However, this can make brilliant ‘sauce’ for the chicken, so don’t wash it up!
- Removing the chicken and mushrooms to the serving plate, add a splash of boiling water to the oven proof dish. Then, using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously until the chicken juices have mixed with the water to create a thin sauce.
- Pour this sauce over the chicken, as it contains the flavours of the thyme and lemon, and gives it delicious moisture.
- This dish is best served with mash or boiled potatoes, alongside some fresh green vegetables. Enjoy!