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Lemon-Herb Chicken with Pine Nuts

November 7, 2012

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Remember me to the one who lives there. She once was a true love of mine.

When my older sister got married and moved to the other side of the country, she left behind her record collection. She had been in her teens during the sixties. Her tastes ran toward Simon & Garfunkel, Carol King, The Beatles, Linda Ronstadt.

I, a full decade younger, listened to them right alongside her. That music became my music. When she left, I wasn’t prepared for the seismic shift in my world. The one I spent the most time with in our small family was gone. But I loved music, I discovered. And one of my favorite things to do was sit, cross-legged, on the floor with my ear right up against the left speaker of the hi-fi* and listen to the songs that called me over and over again.

[*Hi-fi? It was a record player inside a rectangular piece of wood furniture that looked like a bureau without drawers. There were speakers in front on each side. Framed family photos sat on top. There was a lift-up panel in the center that hid the record player below and a small storage area for records. I always sat on the same side so I could quickly scramble up and move the needle to my next favorite song.]


I still love music and I’ve loved food for almost as long, as bb readers know.

I looked outside my window and Simon & Garfunkel’s song, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, naturally started playing in my head as I gazed at the herb bowl on the deck with all of the above herbs plus more in it. That’s what I’ll do with the chicken… parsley and sage all over it!



And a few other choice ingredients…

I make a rubinade  ( I just made that word up) – not really a marinade because it’s thick and I just rub it all over the top instead of submerging the chicken and not a classic rub because that’s dry – what I do (aha! a rubinade!) is create a mixture (highly adaptable) that I spread all over the chicken breast. This mixture keeps the skinless breast moist as it locks in the juices in the same way that the skin would. In this case, I used lemon zest, lemon juice, a little olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh herbs and a bit of mustard.

Then I add some fresh bread crumbs that I like to prepare ahead and keep in the freezer.

Fresh bread crumbs from leftover challah

The bread crumbs give the topping more texture. But I’m not stopping there because I have something else waiting in the freezer.

Pine nuts!

This is what the chicken looks like before I have fun with the back of my spoon. Hey, that sounds slightly naughty.

OK, back to business. The mixture is spread all over the top and sides of each piece, sprinkle on some paprika for color, add a few pine nuts on each piece and give an ever-so-slight drizzle (I slowly pour the oil from a small spoon – that helps control the drizzle quotient) over the length of each breast to create a slight browning action.

I’ll be cutting these breasts in  half anyway and it’s a surefire way for me to see that they’re baked all the way through.

Here’s a totally moist and flavorful chicken for you. And for the dark-meat chicken lovers, try this – you will be amazed!



2 lbs. chicken breasts (I used large ones, any size works!)
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T. olive oil, plus extra for coating pan and drizzling
1 garlic clove, minced
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped (I like Italian parsley, curly parsley works too)
2 T. fresh sage, chopped
2 T chives or green onion, chopped
1 t. mustard, Dijon or whole-grain
salt & pepper
2 T. fresh bread crumbs
1 t. sweet Hungarian paprika
1-2 T. pine nuts, enough to give each breast a light sprinkle


Gather the following ingredients: lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, minced garlic, chopped herbs and mustard.  Place in a bowl or liquid measuring cup and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add bread crumbs and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Remove any visible fat from chicken breasts. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Lightly grease a large baking dish with oil or cooking spray. Lay chicken breasts in pan in a single layer (if crowded, use two pans). Spoon herb mixture over each breast, equally divided (don’t let one of the chickens grab more yummy stuff than the others). Use the back of a tablespoon to spread mixture all over the tops and sides of each chicken breast.

Liberally sprinkle Hungarian paprika over each breast. Then sprinkle pine nuts over the tops of each chicken piece. Using about half a tablespoonful of oil, carefully drizzle a very small amount of oil across the length of each piece of chicken.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken (if the chicken is very very thin, it could take as little as 12-14 minutes to fully bake). The best way to chick if checken check if chicken is ready is to cut a larger piece in half across the width. If the pink in the middle is just cooked through and meat is juicy, pull it out and tent with foil. It’s done!
bb note : This recipe works equally well swapping out the sage for an equal amount of fresh thyme, basil or rosemary. Dried oregano is also great with the parsley, garlic and onion (a Greek combo).


From → Mains, Poultry

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