Preserved lemons, aka lemon pickles, are a delicious and unique treat that have long delivered a ton of salty and acidic crunch to the cuisines of North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia — and to America in recent years.
You can buy lemon pickles at a specialty store (or online) or you can make some at home. But both options have their problems. Lemon pickles from the store are often left to overstay their welcome and become rancid on the shelf, while making them at home can take up to a month because that’s how much time they need to cure. Plus, you’re generally forced to make a big batch because a minimum critical mass is required to produce enough juice to cover the lemons as they cure.
This recipe offers a much quicker way to make lemon pickles. Usually, the lemons are cured whole. Here they are sliced thin, layered with salt and left to cure at room temperature for 12 to 48 hours — your choice — although the longer they cure, the softer the texture and the stronger the flavor. Once cured, there’s nothing left to do but rinse off your lemon pickles and decide which of a whole range of dishes they should glorify. You can add them as a garnish to soups, stews and roasted vegetables, chop and combine them with fresh herbs to top fish, slide them into a grilled cheese sandwich, or stir them into grain dishes.
What about those artichokes? They’re in the recipe because they play so nicely with lemons. I’ve called for frozen or canned artichokes, although you’re welcome to use fresh artichokes if you have the energy to cut them into hearts. (They’ll be delicious.) If you do roll with the canned or frozen kind, just be sure to pat the artichokes very dry and cook them in a hot pan to achieve a nice golden color.
The beauty of this recipe is that once the lemon pickles are good to go, it takes no time at all to throw everything together. And the chicken, combined with a bit of wine, creates its own natural sauce as it cooks.
BAKED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH ARTICHOKE HEARTS, LEMON PICKLES
Start to finish: 13 hours, (40 minutes hands-on)
2 1/2 lemons, preferably thin-skinned
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
8 medium chicken thighs
One 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained, or one 9-ounce box defrosted frozen artichoke hearts
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, parsley or dill
Nutrition information per serving: 248 calories; 156 calories from fat; 17 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 93 mg cholesterol; 344 mg sodium; 4 g carbohydrates; 2 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 16 g protein.
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