Chicken Cutlets Grilled in Charmoula with Quick-Cured Lemon Confit

July 8, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

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. The Editors

Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 4 hrs 45 min
Cook time: 30 min

Ingredients

For the confit

  • 4 very small organic lemons
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt, plus an extra tablespoon for soaking
  • 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

For the charmoula and chicken

  • 1 1/4 cups minced Italian parsley and cilantro, about half of each
  • 2 scallions, sliced, including some light green
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 small lemon, zest of
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 boneless and skinless chicken cutlets, about 3-1/4 lb.
In This Recipe

Directions

For the confit

  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 to 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. 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 inch, 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- to 6-inch 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.

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Reviews (36) Questions (2)

36 Reviews

Marna May 28, 2017
quick question--looking at this yummy sounding recipe. For the charmoula, recipe shows 1//4 tsp salt, really 1/4 tsp or 1 1/4 tsp?<br />
 
Rhonda35 May 28, 2017
I haven't made this recipe in a while, so I can't quite remember but my advice would be: use the 1/4 tsp, taste the resulting charmoula and, if you feel it needs more salt, add more in 1/4 tsp increments to taste. Enjoy!
 
AntoniaJames March 13, 2017
Altogether marvelous. Thank you for another fine recipe. This one is a keeper! One observation: I learned making this that cinnamon's flavor can become stronger with time, as we had plenty of leftovers, which we didn't eat for a couple of days. Despite the boldness of the lemon, the cinnamon seemed a bit too "loud". I'm going to make this the next time using fresh thyme instead of cinnamon - taking a cue from the Gjelina chefs' garlic confit and shallot confit, which feature thyme and bay leaf, with tremendous success.<br />That said, this terrific recipe will become a springboard for other wonderful meals. (Halibut's up next; I can hardly wait.) ;o)
 
Author Comment
creamtea April 30, 2017
Thanks AJ! I'm so happy you tried this. I'd be curious to know how the substitutions worked out.
 
Renee B. February 18, 2016
I have a rather large canning jar full of homemade preserved Meyer lemons. I wonder if 4 of the preserved lemons could replace the lemons and salt in the confit recipe. I think so but am not sure how long the marinating time would take. Thoughts?
 
Author Comment
creamtea February 18, 2016
Renee, this is a good question. I would skip the salt, as you suggest, because the point was to substitute for actual preserved lemons (I make mine with a cinnamon stick, cloves and other spices as per Paula Wolfert's recipe). I might just cut up your preserved lemons, stir in olive oil and the herbs/spices, marinate if you have time (anywhere from an hour to overnight?? but optional) and warm briefly. Water added if it's stiff. I guess you may have to wing it :)
 
Renee B. February 19, 2016
I'm feeling really stupid now. I'd saved your recipe long ago and just revisited after looking for a new chicken dish. I skipped right to the recipe and didn't re-read your Author Notes! My preserved lemons were made only with salt and lemons so are lacking the seasonings. I'll give it a try with spicing my preserved lemons and will report back. It may be a week or two as this weekend and next week are busy. Thanks for the response.
 
dillybug May 14, 2015
Soooo tasty! I did not make the confit but did the chamoula, grilled the chicken and served it with a side of pasta w/homemade pesto. Delish! LOVE the light springy flavors of the chicken- can also see this pairing really well with a spruced up side of grains. New family favorite!<br />
 
LittleRobinRed June 19, 2014
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.
 
Author Comment
creamtea June 19, 2014
Thank you, LRR, for trying my recipe!
 
Allison May 31, 2014
Can I marinate the chicken overnight?
 
Author Comment
creamtea June 1, 2014
I haven't ever; if you try it let me know how it is!
 
em-i-lis June 25, 2013
lovely, lovely!
 
Author Comment
creamtea June 26, 2013
Thanks, em-i-lis!
 
Rhonda35 May 22, 2013
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.
 
Author Comment
creamtea May 22, 2013
I'm so glad you tried it out, whether all or part.
 
healthierkitchen May 7, 2013
I love the flavors!<br />
 
Author Comment
creamtea May 8, 2013
Thank you!
 
TheWimpyVegetarian April 22, 2013
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.
 
Author Comment
creamtea April 29, 2013
Thanks, TheWimpyVegetarian. I hope you do try these. They'd be great on the grill as well.
 
CupcakesandKale February 2, 2013
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.
 
Author Comment
creamtea March 14, 2013
1). Let the lemons cure in the salt & spices 3-4 hours.<br />2) Transfer lemons and spices/herbs to colander to rinse the salt off.
 
Sweet S. February 11, 2012
This chicken looks just beautiful and such an interesting preparation. Can't wait to try it.
 
Author Comment
creamtea February 13, 2012
thanks, Sweet sue. Hope you do!
 
sloppyjoe1 February 2, 2012
When's dinner? Seriously, sounds delicious. Amazing as always, cream tea.
 
Author Comment
creamtea February 3, 2012
thanks slj1.
 
hardlikearmour February 2, 2012
Yum! The confit sounds amazing, and is on my must try list!
 
Author Comment
creamtea February 2, 2012
Hope you try it, hla!
 
ChefJune February 2, 2012
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.
 
Author Comment
creamtea February 2, 2012
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).
 
EmilyC February 2, 2012
I missed this recipe before -- so glad it was chosen as a CP and brought to our attention! Looks and sounds amazing. Saved!
 
Author Comment
creamtea February 5, 2012
Thanks, EmilyC. Let me know if you try it! <br />
 
aargersi January 19, 2012
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!
 
Author Comment
creamtea July 10, 2011
Edited because I forgot to enter the chicken cutlets!
 
Sagegreen July 9, 2011
Such interesting flavors. Love the combinations! Aleppo, bay, cumin and cinnamon with lemon, yum.
 
Author Comment
creamtea July 10, 2011
Thank you, Sagegreen. I love Moroccan flavors.