Alison Miksch
Active Time
30 MIN
Total Time
35 MIN
Yield
Serves : 4

March is a tricky time of year for me, food-wise. By this point, I’m yearning for tender, mild spring vegetables and ready to say bye-for-now to hearty root veggies and brassicas, but the farmers markets are still pretty sparse. So as I wait for the season to fully turn over, I look for ways to bridge the gap between rib-sticking winter fare (it’s still chilly outside, after all) and lighter, fresher tastes. This easy whole-grain skillet hits that spot for me because it’s filling and satisfying, but the pops of fresh citrus make it bright and sunny, too.

I include whole grains in a lot of my weeknight dinners because, sure, they’re nutritious, but more importantly they have such amazing textures and flavors. And there are more options available now than ever, such as sorghum, amaranth, millet, rye berries, teff, and more—way beyond the more-familiar brown rice, wheat berries, and quinoa. In this dish, I’m using freekeh, which is a type of wheat; it’s harvested when it’s young and green and then roasted, which gives it a smoky flavor. I opt for cracked freekeh because it cooks quickly. If you can’t find it, you can substitute bulgur, which is also cracked wheat (just not roasted).

Another quick-cooking staple in my kitchen is boneless, skinless chicken thighs. They’re always meaty and juicy and nearly impossible to overcook. I sear them first, then nestle them into the half-cooked freekeh to finish cooking under a layer of lemon slices to cut through their richness.

My favorite part of this dish, though, is the relish. It’s garlicky, a little spicy, herby, and full of surprises. First, it includes firm feta cheese that gently warms to the point that it becomes soft and almost gooey—which is the way I always want feta from now on. The relish also gets a brazen hit of citrus from chopped lemon sections, which offer tart, juicy bursts that are way more forward than lemon juice would be. The effect is an unsubtle finishing touch that balances out the nutty grains and meaty chicken.

It’s an almost complete meal that my whole family loves, and it’s done from start to finish in just 35 minutes. I’ll serve a simple vegetable on the side—usually blanched broccoli or haricots verts tossed with browned butter—and daydream of sunnier days to come.

How to Make It

Step 1    Make the chicken

Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken, smooth side down. Cook until nicely browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Flip chicken, and cook 2 minutes. Remove chicken from pan (chicken will not be done).

Step 2    

Add onion and garlic to pan; cook, stirring often, until browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Add freekah and coriander; cook, stirring constantly, 45 seconds. Add chicken stock, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in raisins, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.

Step 3    

Zest lemon to equal 1 teaspoon zest. Cut lemon crosswise into 8 thin slices. Uncover pan, and stir zest and oregano into freekeh mixture. Nestle chicken into freekeh, and top each piece of chicken with 2 lemon slices. Cover pan, and cook on low until liquid is absorbed and freekeh is done, 5 to 6 minutes.

Step 4    Make the relish

Zest lemon to equal 1/2 teaspoon zest. Peel lemon, removing all white pith. Cut between membranes to remove lemon sections; discard membranes. Chop lemon sections.

Step
Step 5    

Combine oil, crushed red pepper, and garlic in a small skillet. Cook over medium-low until garlic is just golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in parsley, oregano, and lemon zest. Add feta and chopped lemon, and stir gently to combine. Let stand cheese is warm and softened but not melted, about 2 minutes. Serve relish over chicken and freekeh. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

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