Cast Iron

Skillet Chicken with Pancetta, Torn Olives & Caramelized Lemons

April  6, 2018
26 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This is one of those small effort, huge reward dishes that we all need more of in our lives. I like to serve the chicken over something that soaks up the delicious sauce: couscous, buttered egg noodles, mashed potatoes, or polenta. —EmilyC

What You'll Need
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, thin slices or coarsely chopped
  • 2 small lemons (Meyer or regular)--one for slicing, one for juicing
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 large (or 2 small) shallot, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted and torn into irregular pieces
  • Large handful of coarsely chopped dill or parsley
  1. In a bowl, combine chicken thighs, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 tablespoon olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss well with your hands, smearing the mustard and seasonings evenly over both sides. Set aside.
  2. In a 12-inch cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring every so often, until crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate. Leave about 1 tablespoon of fat in the skillet; discard excess.
  3. Add the chicken thighs to the skillet and cook over medium heat until browned on the first side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Flip; continue cooking until browned and meat is cooked through, about 4 minutes longer. Turn down the heat if the fond on the bottom of the pan starts to burn. Transfer the thighs to a plate and set aside. (Once cool, taste a little piece for seasoning; sprinkle some salt over the thighs if needed, keeping in mind that the pancetta and olives will add saltiness to the finished dish.)
  4. Slice one lemon (well scrubbed) into paper-thin slices and remove the seeds. Add the sugar to a small bowl or plate, and dip the lemon slices in the sugar, coating lightly on both sides. Add to the skillet. Cook until they’re lightly caramelized, about a minute or two per side. Transfer to the plate with the chicken. Add the shallots to the skillet; season with a pinch of salt and saute for 5 to 7 minutes, or until browned and tender, scraping up the fond with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add chicken stock and water to the skillet; bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Add 3/4 teaspoon mustard (stirring well to dissolve) and the olives. Simmer for a few minutes, then return chicken thighs and lemon slices to the skillet, along with any juices that accumulated on the plate. Adjust acidity and seasoning with lemon juice and salt, to taste, or a little more mustard.
  6. Top with pancetta, and scatter with herbs. Serve warm.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Crystal
  • foodyjudy
  • Picholine
  • FrugalCat
  • kschurms

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

31 Reviews

Crystal June 6, 2023
I’m sure the relatively large amount of sugar is to aid in caramelization, but it’s otherwise a good recipe for keto. Is there something else you can recommend to substitute for sugar that will work? Preferably not artificial. Thank you.
kristen M. June 6, 2023
I have made this many times since finding it a few years ago. My family doesn’t care for the lemon slices (too bitter) so I add lemon zest and juice at the end, and don’t use the sugar. Still delicious!
foodyjudy December 6, 2019
this is almost perfection... the only thing I would decrease is the pancetta, coarsely chopped, you only need 1/2 as much. (you can actually buy it finely diced at Trader Joe's...a real boon) I've made this two or three times and the leftovers are as good as the first night. That being said, I would love to serve this to company, but I don't want to stand at the stove for the good part of an hour with my back to the audience.. Since it was as good the second night, would you recommend making ahead and reheating? Honest answer, tips please.
Rosalind P. December 7, 2019
I would definitely make ahead but only with thighs. breasts can easily overcook.
EmilyC December 7, 2019
First off, I'm so happy to hear that this recipe has found a good home with you! : ) RE: making ahead and reheating, yes, that's a great idea. I've never done that for company, but like you, I think it's just as good the second night, so yes, go for it! I'd reheat very gently so the chicken doesn't dry out, and then taste and season again -- maybe some more fresh lemon juice and salt, to taste. And then add the fresh parsley right before serving and you should be all set!
foodyjudy December 7, 2019
Thanks! I do thighs not breasts..
foodyjudy December 7, 2019
Thanks Emily, for the tips....
KK13 September 29, 2019
Made it tonight, turned out awesome. Try it with baguette, it goes so well with the reduction sauce!

Additionally, I added 1 tsp Hungarian sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp turmeric to impart more color and 1/2 cup white wine in the concoction, and boy sure it taste majestic after reduction!

Wish I could post a picture. All in all, a great simple recipe.
EmilyC September 30, 2019
Wonderful, so glad you liked this! Thanks for sharing your additions, as well!
foodie G. October 19, 2018
I cut up boneless skinless thighs into large p 2 inch pieces. I added a Tbs of butter when sautéing the shallots. Instead of water, I used wine with the chicken broth. It was delicious.
EmilyC October 20, 2018
Wonderful!! Thanks so much for trying this and reporting back!
liliana October 14, 2018
Also used bacon instead of pancetta.
I found 2 lemons to be too much.
Only used the sliverd one carmelized in 2 tbsp sugar.
Still, at the end, had to add cream to cut bitterness.
This worked very well.
Next time will consider half a lemon slivered with the other half juiced.
But my end result was yummy.
Picholine July 28, 2018
What are Castelvetrano Olives? Green , black or kalamata?
EmilyC July 28, 2018
Hi Picholine: They’re green with a mild, almost buttery flavor. They’re really nice in this dish because they don’t overpower like a kalamata would. But feel free to substitute another mild olive!
Picholine July 28, 2018
Thank you, I will try to find them.
cookbookchick October 22, 2018
I recently bought a jar of them at Costco, if that helps.
Picholine October 22, 2018
Thank you.
FrugalCat June 27, 2018
I used salad olives which are already broken up for you.
Leslie May 20, 2018
Awesome sauce!😋
EmilyC May 20, 2018
Yay—glad you liked it! : )
Lisa L. April 29, 2018
Made this for dinner tonight & was impressed with the juiciness of the chicken & the wonderful mix of lemony & olivey flavors. I used bacon in lieu of pancetta & I worked well. The crumbled bacon & parsley garnishes were great finishing touches.
EmilyC April 29, 2018
Wonderful, so glad you liked it Lisa! Thanks so much for your note.
kristen M. April 25, 2018
Delicious! Five stars from all four members of the family, which almost never happens! I was skeptical about the lemons, but I liked the sour crunch. 14yo daughter picked them out. I used boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into four or five pieces per breast. I couldn't find Aleppo pepper; subbed a bit of crushed chili flakes. Definite chicken dinner winner!
EmilyC April 26, 2018
Hooray! So glad to hear this kristen! Thanks for trying this and circling back.
kschurms April 23, 2018
Delicious recipe, made everything exactly as written and served with Israeli cous cous. However, I found it to be very bitter with the sauteed lemons. I sliced them thinly, coated them in sugar, and ensured they were caramelized, but overall still found them to be far too bitter to eat. Next time I'd just use lemon juice and skip the lemon slices (or use preserved lemons). I also think a glug of white wine would have been a nice addition to the chicken stock when deglazing.
EmilyC April 23, 2018
I hear ya on the lemons! I love them in this dish, my husband picks them out! : ) Try adding lemon zest to the mustard/olive oil rub next time, and then add the juice at the end as you suggested. And yes to white wine for the pan sauce if you have some handy! Thanks for your note!
Rosalind P. April 20, 2018
can't do either the pork product or the butter (kosher), but it's delicious with just olive oil. Maybe lacking something from the original, but if you don't know what you don't complaints.
EmilyC April 20, 2018
Great point! : ) So glad it worked well with just the olive oil. Thanks for your note!
Judy April 20, 2018
Can I make this without pancetta? Thanks
EmilyC April 20, 2018
Hi Judy, if you’re looking for a substitute, bacon will work just fine! Or if you decide to leave it out, I’d sauté the chicken in both olive oil and butter (about a tablespoon of each) for more flavor.
Judy April 20, 2018
Thanks. I like the combination of oil and butter..