Syrian Lemon and Olive Chicken

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Scoop of perfectly thickened sauce

This recipe was adapted from Jeff Nathan’s “Syrian Lemon Chicken Stew” from his Adventures in Jewish Cooking. I’ve shortened the process by using chicken breast and played around with the seasonings a bit.

This dish combines Mediterranean flavors of cumin, lemon and olive to create a savory but light stew. I love this because it gives me the opportunity to cook with olives, which are fruits I usually only get to enjoy cold. The generic Spanish salad olives I used hit the spot for me, but since the olives are a main source of the flavor in this dish, better olives (or any Mediterranean green olives you like best) will enhance the overall flavor. Pimento is not necessary, but I like it for its briny flavor and the contrasting red color it provides in this otherwise green-yellow concoction.

Recipe: Syrian Lemon and Olive Chicken

Makes approximately 4 servings.

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine (optional – replace wine with extra stock)
  • 2/3 cup pitted and sliced green olives
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a large deep pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper on the cubed chicken pieces, and then add to the pan. Do not move, let the pieces get a good sear (about 1-2 minutes) and then flip to sear the other side. These do not need to be fully cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside, leaving about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan.
  2. Add onion and garlic stirring up the browned chicken bits in the skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until lightly browned.

    Syrian Lemon Chicken - 1. Browning the onions

  3. Add flour, oregano, and cumin. Mix thoroughly so that the powders coat the oily onions. Cook the roux (the mixture of the flour and oil that is coating the onions) until it is a few shades darker. The roux will thicken the stew liquid later.

    Creating a roux

  4. After the flour has cooked, stir in the stock, wine, olives and lemon juice. Stir.

    Adding liquid and other seasonings

  5. Return chicken to the pan, stir to coat and bring to a simmer.  Lower the heat, cover the pan and allow approximately 15 minutes for the flavors to mingle.

    Adding the chicken

  6. Take off heat, allow a few minutes for the sauce to cool and thicken. Serve over warm rice, cous cous, or even cooled down inside a pita.

About this author:  I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...

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3 Responses to “Syrian Lemon and Olive Chicken”

  1. Daniel EvansNo Gravatar

    I love the smell and taste of Oregano when added in some recipes.;`-

  2. StatizNo Gravatar

    oregano is a good additive on pastas and salads, oregano helps to add that tangy flavor


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