Preserved Lemon Citrus Chicken with Chervil Gremolata

Preserved Lemons from LaProvence

Preserved Lemons from LaProvence

By Cat, Oct 2007 (Photo, right, of jarred Preserved Meyer Lemons from La Provence restaurant, by Cat)

  • Includes: 1. Preserved Lemon Citrus Chicken with Chervil Gremolata; 2. Game Hen Variation; 3. Testing Chicken and Game Hen versions
  • See also: 1. Poultry & Fowl Menu2. Brining Chicken;

I’d not known about preserved (fermented) lemons until my friend Marc, chef and owner of La Provence in Bigfork, let me taste them. So good! He told me how to make them, and I bought a jar to tide me over until I could make more. Then, of course, I had to find recipes to use them (See Preserved Lemon, Lacto-Fermented). Generally, they can be used in place of sliced lemons in any recipe.

Chervil is a lovely herb (and member of the carrot family), but doesn’t last too long after harvesting, and doesn’t retain its flavor when dried. It is best to cut it right before using. It’s flavor is a bit licorice, not as pronounced as fennel. If you can’t find chervil, you can use parsley or fennel leaves. Tarragon is another substitute, although it has a different flavor; best to combine tarragon with parsley.

Preserved Lemon Citrus Chicken with Chervil Gremolata

This recipe is adapted form The Secret Ingredient: Preserved Lemons, by Kerry Saretsky. I prefer to save bony pieces (back, neck) for making chicken broth. And I prefer to brine the breasts to help them retain moisture.

This is a bit more like a tagine (a slow-cooked savory stew from North Africa), and serves 4.

See below this recipe for a variation using Cornish Game Hens (or other small hens such as grouse, pheasant).

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into parts: legs, thighs, wings, breasts (save bony pieces for homemade broth; brine at least the breasts)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh chervil
  • Unrefined sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 small preserved lemons, rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon, divided
  • ¾ cup dry white wine (I like to use dry vermouth)
  • ½ cup homemade chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream

Chervil Gremolata

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • half of orange and lemon zest from above
  • 2 stems fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chervil
  • Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  • large bowl (for brining)
  • 2 small bowls
  • saucier


  1. Prep: Brine chicken breasts for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry. Cut each half-breast in half, if they are large. Season all except breast pieces with salt, and all with pepper and fresh chervil.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse preserved lemons, remove seeds and slice into thin strips; place in small bowl. Slice garlic and add to lemon strips. Graze zest of fresh lemon & orange; add half of the zest to lemon strips and set aside remaining half for the gremolata.
  3. Gremolata: Remove leaves from thyme stems and chop finely. Mix in small bowl with minced garlic, reserved zests and chopped chervil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Sear Chicken: Heat saucier over medium heat; when hot, add oil. Sear chicken pieces on both sides in hot pan until golden (may need to do in batches). Cook thighs a bit longer. Remove to a plate.
  5. Cook Tagine: Reduce heat to low; add preserved lemon mixture and quickly stir them around in the hot oil, then add the wine. Raise heat to high and use a whisk to pick up all the chicken bits from the bottom of the pan. Add wine and cook down a bit, then add stock and season with pepper (and salt, if you didn’t brine).
  6. Add chicken pieces back to pot, thighs first as they take longer to cook. Return to boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover the saucier and simmer for 30 – 50 minutes, until chicken is done.
  7. Remove lid of pot and cook chicken uncovered for 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and transfer chicken pieces to serving platter. Whisk creme fraiche into saucier, then pour over the chicken.
  8. Serve: Top with gremolata and serve.

Serving ideas

  • Serve with fresh baguette or flatbread (such as pita or naan); or couscous flavored with spinach and/or sun-dried tomato. Or Quinoa, with Saffron & Raisins instead of couscous.
  • Accompany with olives, fresh grapes, and a green salad.

Variation with Cornish Game Hens

Make as written, except use:

  • 2 – 3 game hens, brined (see below)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh chervil (divided),
  • 1 – 2 preserved lemons (rinsed),
  • 2 cloves garlic (divided),
  • zest of 1 each orange and lemon (divided),
  • ½ cup dry wine (vermouth)
  • ⅔ – 1 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 2 stems fresh thyme.


  1. Brine hens the night before, using 6 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 2 Tbsp Rapadura sugar and 5 ½ cups water per bird for 2 hours. Remove from brine, rinse well and pat dry. Cut each bird in half and lay on plates skin side up in fridge to dry overnight (for crispier skin).
  2. Follow chicken recipe (above), but cook the birds in wine/broth mixture about 45 minutes, covered. Then remove cover and cook another 5 – 10 minutes.

Testing recipe:

Testing chicken 6/18/10: Used whole Hutterite chicken, cut up, and brined the breasts. Didn’t have enough chervil so added some fresh feathery fennel leaves; otherwise, prepared as original recipe. Result: Delicious flavor that grows on you as you go. Sauce is tasty, but there’s too much of it (this is why I say it is more like a tagine. The breasts, wings, and drumsticks were done, but the thighs could have used more cooking time. I served with the saffron quinoa, which added nice flavor to the overall meal. Next time: Sear thighs a bit longer than the other pieces, and add them back to the pot first. Add wine alone and cook down to deglaze pan, then add stock; also reduce stock to 1/2 cup instead of 1 cup (modified recipe accordingly). May need to cook up to 50 minutes instead of 30.

Testing Game Hens 6/12/11: I made with just one hen, halved (2 servings). A whole chicken weights 3 – 5 pounds, dressed; one game hen is 22 oz. or about ⅓ that of a chicken; I adjusted the ingredients to roughly ⅓ of the original chicken recipe:

  • Brined using 6 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 2 Tbsp Rapadura and 5 ½ cups water for 2 hours. Then rinsed well and patted dry, and set to dry off in the fridge for 4 hours.
  • Used for the bird and gremolata:  1 Tbsp chopped fresh chervil (divided), ½ preserved lemon (rinsed), 1 clove garlic (divided), zest of ⅓ each orange and lemon (divided), ¼ cup dry vermouth, ⅓ cup stock and 1 Tbsp sour cream, 1 stem fresh thyme.
  • Followed instructions, but cooked about 50 minutes. Served with Quinoa, with Saffron & Raisins.


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