Mom’s Lemon Chicken

Mom’s Lemon Chicken

A few weeks ago, a well-known food blogger, writer, and mother to two young girls named Jennifer Perillo, suddenly lost her husband Mikey to a massive heart attack.  He was helping their daughter ride her bike when his life was tragically and unexpectedly taken away. I cannot imagine her pain and my heart aches at the thought of her loss.  Although I do not know her personally, my eyes still well up when I think about her and her family.  Yet she found the strength, just eight days later, to write a touch article here about the importance of family dinners.

lemons x 3

I grew up in a family where we sat together for dinner every night.  It didn’t matter if we were eating leftovers or takeout or a home-cooked favourite, my sister and I would set the table and we all took our respective seats around the table to have our meals.  That’s how we learned about each other’s day, shared jokes, vented our grievances, laughed, cried, and celebrated life’s little victories.  And now that I’m married and my husband and I live in the city, I find we don’t sit down together as often as I’d like.  The hecticness of work, friends, travel, classes, and the sheer grind of it all finds a way into our weekly routine more often than not.

lemon zest

So when he was getting ready to head out on a week-long international business trip, I made sure to take the time to prepare his favourite meals.  We had Ah Poh’s Yam Mein one night and my mom’s Lemon Chicken the next.  I remember as a kid how special we all felt when my mom would take the time to make lemon chicken and how spoiled they felt when I made my version for them.  And so, before D’s big trip, I wanted him to feel spoiled, and lemon chicken it was.

While this dish is fairly simple, it’s not the quickest to whip up (and you know I’m a fan of quick dinners) so give yourself enough time.  The chicken needs to be sliced, but you can buy prepped chicken tenders to cut this step.  I butterfly the breasts, which just means you cut it horizontally to make the breast thinner.  It opens up and make a ‘butterfly’ shape.  I used to be so scared of raw chicken, and would wear plastic gloves.  But with practice, I’ve toughened up and now it doesn’t freak me out. If you are scared, don’t be – just go for it.  Be fearless.  Or don’t and buy chicken tenders.

dredging set up station

When making breaded chicken, it’s good to set up a dredging station.  Dredging is basically the process of creating a dry layer, followed by a wet layer, finished with a crumb layer to create the breading.  So here we use cornstarch, egg, and gluten-free bread crumbs.  You dip the chicken in cornstarch to coat, then the egg, then the crumbs, shaking off the excess after each ingredient.  At the end you have perfectly breaded chicken ready to fry.  If you’re sensitive or allergic to eggs, you can substitute egg replacer and it works just fine.

cornstarch layer
egg layer

I’m new to food blogging, and am pleasantly suprised to see it’s a supportive community.  When news of Jennifer’s loss broke, there was an overwhelming amount of support for her and her family.  To help her heal, she asked that people make her husband Mikey’s favourite peanut butter cream pie in celebration of his life.  And to share that pie with someone you love.  Thousands of people made that Pie for Mikey.  It was on CNN.  And there’s this lovely video by Todd & Diane that basically sums it all up.

cornstarch and slurry

While I didn’t partake in the Pie for Mikey, I will definitely be helping by supporting Bloggers Without Borders – a non-profit organization that is was formed by food bloggers Maggy  Three Many Cooks and Erika Pineda-Ghanny of The Ivory Hut to help Jennifer and her girls during this difficult time.  I follow Jennifer on twitter and her tweets about insurance and the US healthcare system are both infuriating and sad.  Jennifer’s grace and strength during this tragedy are inspiring, and as I was making the lemon chicken for D, I remembered her words “Instead of looking at dinnertime as yet another chore, seize it for the gift it really is — a time to come together as a family and talk about your day, say grace or clink glasses and cherish the moment with each bite.”

fried chicken


lemon chicken close up


Lemon Chicken (Gluten-Free)

While this dish is fairly simple, it's not the quickest to whip up (and you know I'm a fan of quick dinners) so give yourself enough time. The chicken needs to be sliced, but you can buy prepped chicken tenders to cut this step. I butterfly the breasts, which just means you cut it horizontally to make the breast thinner. It opens up and make a 'butterfly' shape. I used to be so scared of raw chicken, and would wear plastic gloves. But with practice, I've toughened up and now it doesn't freak me out. If you are scared, don't be - just go for it. Be fearless. Or don't and buy chicken tenders.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian
Diet: Gluten Free
Keyword: chicken, dairy-free, gluten-free, lemon, nut-free, poultry, sauces & dips
Servings: 2
Author: ness


Easy Lemon Sauce (Enough for six servings)

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup water
  • Rind from 2 lemons
  • 2 Tbsp sugar (or more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch with 3 Tbsp water (slurry)

Fried Chicken Strips (serves 2)

  • 2 chicken breasts (cut into 1/2 slices)
  • 1 cup cornstarch or tapioca powder
  • 1 egg (beaten (or 1 egg replacement equivalent))
  • 1 cup gluten free breadcrumbs
  • 1 lemon sliced into 1/4" rounds (for garnish)
  • Canola oil for frying


Easy Lemon Sauce (Enough for six servings)

  • Add lemon juice, water, and lemon rinds to a small sauce pan and bring to boil. Add the sugar until and stir until dissolved. To make the slurry, whisk together the cornstarch and water until there are no lumps. Add this to the lemon mixture and stir. Bring to boil and simmer for 2 minutes until thickened. If sauce is too thick, add a teaspoon of water at a time until you reach desired consistency. If sauce is to watery, make more slurry and add one tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency. Taste for sweetness (add more sugar if necessary).

Fried Chicken Strips (serves 2)

  • Set up cornstarch, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs in 3 separate shallow bowls. Dip one slice of chicken in the cornstarch to coat and shake off excess. Dip in egg to coat and drip off excess. Dip in breadcrumbs to coat and set aside. Continue until all chicken is breaded.
  • In a deep sided pot, pour enough oil so there is at least 2" of oil. Heat on medium high heat. To test if oil is hot enough to fry, stick a wooden chopstick or handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. If you see tiny bubbles floating to the surface of the oil, it's ready. Remove wooden stick. Add as many pieces of chicken to the oil as you can so that it's full without being overcrowded (each chicken should have room to move around). Fry on each side for about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove chicken from oil and place on paper towel lined tray and continue until all chicken is fried.
  • Remove the lemon rinds from the lemon sauce and reheat. On a clean cutting board, slice the chicken into 1" strips and place on platter. Place lemon rounds on top of chicken for garnish and pour lemon sauce over top. Serve immediately with rice and vegetables.

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