Silver Lemons…Or, When Life Gives You Lemons…

You can make chicken.

lemon chicken

And you can make cake, too!

lemon cake

Welcome to my blog, which, in case the name doesn’t give it away, is mostly about food, a little bit about books, and apparently, today, all about lemons. Since food and reading are quite possibly two of my most favorite activities on the planet, I plan to use this space to explore the pages of as many cookbooks as I can get my hands on, ranging from my favorite classics to historical cookbooks, diner cookbooks, cookbooks I find gathering dust in the bargain section of used bookstores, and everything in between.

For my initial post, however, it had to be Silver Palate.

cookbook1

(That copy technically belongs to my mom. After years of surreptitiously sneaking it off the shelf and into my suitcase, hoping its absence would not be discovered, only to get caught when she needed the Decadent Chocolate Cake recipe, I bought her the 2007 Silver Palate Deluxe edition. It has new recipes, full color spreads, and most importantly, freed up the older copy to conveniently fall into my clutches.)

I’ve spent years going back and re-reading this iconic collection of recipes, written by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso and first published in 1982, cover-to-cover, nearly as many times as I’ve re-read the Harry Potter series. It is beautifully crafted food prose, years before food blogs became a thing.

Just check out what the Silver Palate ladies have to say about stew:

            “Stews are forgiving food, easygoing and open to improvisation and substitution. They also reduce pressure in the kitchen, since stews are nearly always made a day or two in advance of serving. The finished product, long simmered and rich-flavored, is always a crowd pleaser. Stew says something special to your guests; they feel welcomed, comforted, nourished.”

Word.

I promise not to gush this much about most of the cookbooks I write about, but this one’s pretty special. Sure, in its hollandaise stained pages are the recipes I used to make my first dinner for the fam, my first meal for myself in my first apartment, and my first “real” cake, so it’s got loads of sentimental value. But beyond being a great cooking teacher (probably my best cooking teacher, next to my mom!), I find that a quick skim of Silver Palate inspires me to cook.

Take, for example, this sidebar on lemons:

cookbook2

The lemon chicken recipe, which I recently tried out for the first time, makes a fantastic weeknight dinner, since you marinate it during the day and then fry it up for a few seconds and pop it in the oven. And I’m intrigued by their suggestion of packing it for a picnic. Cold, crunchy fried chicken is my jam.

Here is the recipe, with my adaptations to cut the portions from 6 to 3 servings.

1 chicken, cut into quarters, or at least a pound of bone-in chicken thighs

1 cup fresh lemon juice

½ cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked)

½ teaspoon fresh black pepper

¼ cup vegetable or coconut oil (for frying)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/8 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon lemon extract

2 lemons sliced paper thin

  1. Combine chicken parts and lemon juice in a bowl just large enough to hold them comfortably. Cover and marinate in the refridgerator overnight, turning occasionally.
  2. Drain chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Fill a plastic bag (or a bowl) with flour, salt, paprika and black pepper, and shake well to mix. Coat chicken completely in mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  4. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven until hot and fry chicken pieces until browned and crisp.
  5. Arrange chicken in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with lemon zest and brown sugar. Whisk stock and lemon extract together (I threw in a little white wine for good measure) and pour around chicken pieces. Set a thin lemon slice on top of each piece.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
  7. Eat perfectly crispy, lemony chicken!

The cake I made last weekend for my mother’s birthday, and it was awesome. Super buttery and with an intense lemony burst to each bite that reminded me of really, really good key lime pie.

Glazed Lemon Cake

½ pound sweet butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

3 cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 tightly packed tablespoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. (Or, if you have patience issues, like me, mix everything together all at once, cross your fingers, and hope for the best.) Add lemon juice and zest.
  4. Pour batter into greased cake pan (The recipe calls for a tube pan, but I used a regular old rectangular one.) Set on middle rack of oven and bake for 50 minutes to one hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away form sides and you can poke a tester into the middle and have it come out clean.
  5. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes, then frost while it’s still warm with this:

Lemon Icing

1 pound powdered sugar

8 tablespoons butter, softened

3 tightly packed tablespoons lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice

Cream sugar, butter thoroughly, mix in lemon zest and juice, ice (and eat) cake.

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