Citrus Chicken

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Time can be a funny thing.

Sometimes when life gets hectic I’ll be racing along, thinking I have just enough time to finish what I need to do, with tunnel vision for the task I’m working on. I settle into the mindset that I barely have a moment to spare, especially if it’s to take time to do something trivial like enjoy a cup of tea.

And then life will sneak up completely unexpectedly and take me by surprise. It could be getting sick, or a loved one getting sick who needs my full attention. It could be a flat tire or a speeding ticket (so ironic that in the end speeding slows you down instead of getting you to your destination faster! Life is funny like that). Or more permanently, it could be the death of a friend, family member, or acquaintance.

These things feel like a blow to the chest, literally knocking the wind out.

These things make me realize that no matter how frantic and busy life gets, some things are always more important. My post today is dedicated to everyone affected by the bombings that happened at the Boston Marathon on Monday. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with you.

It almost seems silly to talk about food in the midst of such tragedy, but thinking about it, maybe it’s not. Food is more than just bodily sustenance; it’s how we show our loved ones that we care about them. Sitting down and enjoying a meal with someone is one of the most intimate things you can do.


So in the spirit of offering comfort, I offer this simple recipe for chicken.

It’s full of complex flavors, bright and zesty, but balanced with both sweet and spicy flavors. I give directions below on how to turn the flavorful marinade into a rich sauce, heavy with onion; this is totally optional though, and the chicken is still fantastic without it. The hands-on time that it takes to make this dish is minimal, so you can spend more time on more important things, like reading to your kids, a phone call with a dear friend, a date night with your significant other, or even just a cup of tea to yourself.


Citrus Chicken
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 servings
  • 4-6 tablespoons (60 to 90 ml) fresh-squeezed orange juice (from 1 medium orange)
  • 1½ teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime-infused olive oil (see Note)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed in a mortar and pestle or grated on a microplane
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated on a microplane
  • 1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1½ to 1¾ lbs chicken drumsticks (about 5 to 6 drumsticks)
  • ½ cup (120 ml) water
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water to form a slurry
  • A couple fresh lemon or lime slices, for garnish (optional)
  1. Whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, red pepper flakes, honey, tamari or soy, oil, salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, and onion in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F; line a large baking sheet with a silpat liner or lightly spray it with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Arrange the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, reserving the marinade (with the onion). Roast the chicken until fully cooked (the juices should run clear), about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. While the chicken roasts, pour the marinade (with the onion) and the water into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring up to a boil and let the sauce boil vigorously (uncovered) 5 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and cook 30 seconds more, stirring constantly.
  5. To serve, arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Spoon a bit of the sauce on top and garnish with lemon or lime slices if desired.
Recipe inspired by Cooking Light's recipe for Citrus Chicken.

Substitution for Lemon or Lime-Infused Olive Oil: Use 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest.

Paleo Version: Use coconut aminos instead of tamari or soy sauce; use arrowroot starch instead of cornstarch.

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  1. says

    We say at our house “food = love”! Actually I’m usually telling my husband that “food doesn’t = love”; as he over feeds our cats and I watch them getting rounder and rounder.
    I love the bright citrus with the salty tamari and the gingery ginger. Lovely!

  2. says

    This post touched a lot od soft spots I’ve been trying to conceal since the whole Boston tragedy on Monday. When things like that happen it really makes you think…

    This chicken looks so comforting, Faith, and perfect to share with people you love! xx

  3. says

    A lovely post Faith, with a comforting dish to go along with the beautiful sentiments. Life catches us by surprise, doesn’t it? We’ve been feeling the permanence of the loss of loved ones recently, and I’ve found myself turning to food and the time around the table and holding them as special moments.
    This chicken has all my favorite flavors!!! I think I love absolutely everything about it and it’s officially on my list. Thank you!!

  4. says

    What a beautiful, in every sense of the word, post Faith. The bombing in Boston is so sad, my heart goes out to all of the victims and their families. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and scrumptious recipe. xx

  5. Eha says

    Boston was one of such dire happenings which could not fit into anyone’s mindset? Why, why those totally innocent people who least deserved the horror happening. I watched an could not believe . . . My sympahy and empathy goes out to anyone caught in the horror . . . citrus chicken sounds great and is already on my file for the days to come . . .

  6. says

    I totally know what you mean. I’m so inclined to get caught up in such frivolous things and then am just struck by the silliness of it all when something like this happens.

    Food is definitely important in times like these…and this chicken sounds totally comforting!

  7. says

    Food will always be connected to comfort to me — there’s nothing trivial about it. Although the tragedy sadly cannot be erased, being able to share a lovely dish with people cared about helps. Beautiful flavors…

  8. says

    Sometimes it’s worth it to stop and enjoy what life has to offer. You always think there is going to be enough time but in the end life is short. I agree that food is comforting. It’s what makes me feel better when things feel like they cannot get better.


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