Ah, Christmas. Fraught with the perils of gift-giving etiquette and emotional landmines. Also one of my favorite times of year because oh dear Lord the pounds of butter, the rivers of heavy cream, the mountains of kielbasa and potatoes. Last Christmas, I gained five pounds in the space of a week. About two years before that, my older brother bestowed a most excellent gift: A box of Penzeys spices.
It was my first Christmas as a newlywed, so it, um, took me a while to get around to using all the items in the trip-around-the-world box of wonder. Penzeys' soothing, clean typeface adorned bottles of Indian peppercorns, Dutch process cocoa, French thyme, and what I think of as an American favorite: lemon pepper.
I don't think I had ever purchased a bottle of the stuff; I just wondered what people did with it when I encountered it in the spice aisle. Thus, it languished the longest of all the spices in that box, until I was looking for something to enliven my never-ending hunks of of lean protein, i.e., chicken breasts. Somewhere in my reading and Food Network watching, I had picked up the idea that chicken and lemon are good friends, so it seemed only natural that chicken might at least like to meet lemon pepper.
Sprinkled over a few pinky-beige slabs of poultry, it saved me from being bored to death by my diet. And when I paired it with lemon juice, the chicken went from yay-it's-not-bland to oh-wow-this-is-delightfully-zingy. I use it on pizza, in salads, and for sandwiches, and I'm not sure I'll ever get tired of the flavor. Which is good, because I'm in a wedding Labor Day weekend and I have more than a few pounds to go before I reach my goal weight.
The Hipstamatic app makes even raw chicken look fab.
Deliciousness: It's tangy, versatile, and low in fat. What more do you want?
Difficulty: None to speak of.
Do-Over: At least once a week.
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Juice one lemon and remove the seeds. Briefly rinse as many frozen chicken breasts as you want to make (and will fit in a single layer in your baking dish). I only do this because it helps the lemon pepper stick. Sprinkle one side of the meat with a fair amount of lemon pepper and drizzle with half the juice. Turn over and repeat.
3. Bake for 25 minutes, turn over, and start checking for doneness 10-15 minutes later. Most cookbooks will tell you that you want the juices to run clear when you cut into the thickest part of the meat, and who am I to argue with experts?
NOTE: Next week I will be unable to post due to a prior engagement, but my friend Brandi, who happens to be a fellow food blogger, has agreed to take the reins. You'll be in good hands. Thanks, B!