Chicken Cutlets Grilled in Charmoula with Quick-Cured Lemon Confit

By • July 8, 2011 • 28 Comments

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Author Notes: Friday night dinner is the time my family and I gather together, share the news of the busy week behind us, and regroup. I spend most Fridays preparing this special meal. When summer heat arrives, though, the thought of cranking up the oven and heating the house makes me want to sit on the balcony with an iced coffee and while the day away. Cutlets to the rescue: they are quick and easy. This recipe originated when a craving for Moroccan flavors hit, but I was without home-cured lemons. The charmoula is based on Paula Wolfert's recipe in Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, but has sort of wandered off in its own direction.creamtea

Food52 Review: The confit is the star of the dish and really helps to make a basic herb chicken cutlet special. The confit takes a little time to make so you need to plan ahead, but it's worth it in the end. The lemons become soft to the bite and are perfumed with cinnamon and bay leaves. We think the confit would pair nicely with so many dishes that we're keeping some on hand to perk things up every now and then. A&M

Serves 4-6

For the confit

  • 4 very small organic lemons
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt, plus an extra tablespoon for soaking
  • 1-2 small pieces broken cinnamon stick, each about 1/4" x 1"
  • 2 fresh bay leaves, twisted in several places along the central vein to release flavor
  • 4 whole peppercorns, slightly cracked in a mortar and pestle
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. In a medium bowl, combine lemons, lukewarm water to cover and about 1 tablespoon salt. Soak for about one-half hour to soften skin.
  2. Remove lemons from salt water, trim the pointy ends off, and cut lengthwise in half. With cut side down on cutting board, slice as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife and place in a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle lemon slices with 2 tablespoons of salt and add cinnamon, cracked pepper and bay leaves. Allow to marinate for 3-4 hours to draw out juices and season them.
  4. Transfer lemon slices to a colander, reserving the herb and spices, and rinse to remove excess salt. Pat with paper towels.
  5. In a small nonstick saute pan, add olive oil and warm over low heat. Add lemons with care (they may spurt oil if the pan is too hot). Saute lightly until soft.
  6. Add about two glugs (1/4 -1/3 cup) water to hot pan, raise heat to medium, and simmer away most of the water until the lemons are still moist but not dry. They should be translucent and quite tender (add additional water as necessary). Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

For the charmoula and chicken

  • 1 1/4 cup minced Italian parsley and cilantro, about half of each
  • 2 scallions, sliced, including some light green
  • 1//4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • pinch or two of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • zest from one small lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 boneless and skinless chicken cutlets, about 3-1/4 lb.
  1. place herbs, salt, spices, vinegar and zest in the container of a spice grinder or better, small food processor and whiz to mince finely. Add olive oil in a stream until emulsified.
  2. Set aside charmoula while you prepare the chicken cutlets.
  3. Rinse the cutlets, remove the under-flap, reserving it for another use , and pat dry with a paper towel. Pound cutlets to even thickness-about 1/2 ", between sheets of parchment.
  4. Smear the charmoula over the chicken cutlets.
  5. Set a ridged grill pan on medium to medium high heat and heat. Rub with a little olive oil.
  6. When the pan is hot, place the cutlets, cut side down, and cook, about 8 minutes. Monitor their progress, adjusting the heat up or down, so that they don't dry out. Flip cutlets and cook about another 8 or so minutes until cooked through but still juicy, remove from heat and keep warm on a serving plate.
  7. May be grilled on an oiled grate 5-6" from glowing coals until cooked through and juices run clear, flipping halfway through.
  8. Serve the cutlets garnished with lemon confit, with rice as an accompaniment.
Jump to Comments (28)

Comments (28) Questions (2)

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3 months ago LittleRobinRed

I didn't make the lemon confit, just the charmoula, which I spread on the chicken and let sit for a few hours before cooking. I couldn't find Aleppo pepper so subbed a combo of paprika and red pepper flakes as suggested by a few websites. I didn't think the chicken was too flavorful on it's own, so I would say the lemon confit is necessary for this dish. I served along side a Moroccan couscous dish that had plenty of flavor so my dinner was just fine, but served with plain rice it would have been bland. I also think 8 minutes on each side for the chicken would be way too much. Four minutes on each side on medium heat on my stove was plenty.

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3 months ago creamtea

Thank you, LRR, for trying my recipe!

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4 months ago Allison

Can I marinate the chicken overnight?

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4 months ago creamtea

I haven't ever; if you try it let me know how it is!

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about 1 year ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

lovely, lovely!

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about 1 year ago creamtea

Thanks, em-i-lis!

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over 1 year ago Rhonda35

I never got around to making the lemon confit, but used this charmoula mixture for grilled boneless pork chop paillards (no chicken in the fridge) - SO delicious! Next time I will make the confit, too.

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over 1 year ago creamtea

I'm so glad you tried it out, whether all or part.

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over 1 year ago healthierkitchen

I love the flavors!

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thank you!

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over 1 year ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Oh wow, this looks so good! Don't know how I missed this one - my husband would love this especially with grilling season upon us :-) I'd love to grill these.

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over 1 year ago creamtea

Thanks, TheWimpyVegetarian. I hope you do try these. They'd be great on the grill as well.

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over 1 year ago CupcakesandKale

I'm confused by some of the language and hoping you can clarify - when you say steep the lemon, you don't mean to put them back in the water, do you? To me, the definition of steep is to soak in water or other liquid so as to extract its flavor or to soften it, as in, "the chilies are steeped in olive oil". I've reread it and I'm not sure. What confuses me more is when you say "keep the spices". Does this mean to keep them with the lemons in the colander while you're rinsing them, or reserve them to add back after rinsing? I see them in the photo, but I'm not sure if I'm supposed to add them back to the pan with the lemons while they're cooking? Thanks for your help - it looks delicious.

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over 1 year ago creamtea

1). Let the lemons cure in the salt & spices 3-4 hours.
2) Transfer lemons and spices/herbs to colander to rinse the salt off.

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over 2 years ago Sweet sue

This chicken looks just beautiful and such an interesting preparation. Can't wait to try it.

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over 2 years ago creamtea

thanks, Sweet sue. Hope you do!

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over 2 years ago sloppyjoe1

When's dinner? Seriously, sounds delicious. Amazing as always, cream tea.

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over 2 years ago creamtea

thanks slj1.

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Yum! The confit sounds amazing, and is on my must try list!

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over 2 years ago creamtea

Hope you try it, hla!

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over 2 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What could you sub for the cilantro in the charmoula? It ruins any dish it's in for me because all I taste is soap. Otherwise, this recipe sounds amazing.

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over 2 years ago creamtea

I would just stick with the Italian parsley and scallions, maybe adding a little extra. (Having said that, I find that using only the leaves of the cilantro is key--I try to remove all the stems to avoid that soapy taste). You could increase the bay leaves to 3 in the lemon confit for more "green" flavor; sauteed fresh bay is wonderful and perfumes the whole kitchen (and is an entirely different thing from dried bay, less harsh & less spicy).

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over 2 years ago EmilyC

I missed this recipe before -- so glad it was chosen as a CP and brought to our attention! Looks and sounds amazing. Saved!

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over 2 years ago creamtea

Thanks, EmilyC. Let me know if you try it!

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over 2 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I love how you treat the lemons here - I tried a whole lemon salsa and it wasn't quite right - too "rindy" - your method would solve that!

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about 3 years ago creamtea

Edited because I forgot to enter the chicken cutlets!

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about 3 years ago Sagegreen

Such interesting flavors. Love the combinations! Aleppo, bay, cumin and cinnamon with lemon, yum.

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about 3 years ago creamtea

Thank you, Sagegreen. I love Moroccan flavors.