Happy Widow Lemon Chicken

  • Prep Time
    45 minutes
  • Cook Time
    30 minutes including sauce
  • Serving
  • View

I’m calling this dish Happy Widow Lemon Chicken because at the Chinese Restaurant where I used to go with a stack of newspapers for a leisurely lunch and dim sum on Sunday, the proprietress once shouted at me across the crowded dining room, “Cindy, why don’t you have a MAN?”  Well, Miss Shirley, I am legally, technically and officially a widow.  And having been a widow since the turn of this century, I have had many meals in Chinese restaurants with a variety of romantic candidates, some of which were really bad experiences.  Like the lawyer who suggested we have dinner at his favorite Chinese restaurant and then he proceeded to drive me through two parishes to a small dimly lit establishment in a seedy strip mall in the middle of nowhere.  When I questioned the geographical remoteness of our date, he allowed he was still married.  Great.  Or the Thin Man who admonished me for eating too much and wanted to know how “big” I thought I would get as I aged.  I scratched him off the list pretty fast.  Or – and this experience actually occurred at a Vietnamese restaurant – my date who had been in Scenic Southeast Asia during the fall of Saigon had a graphic flashback that resulted in his telling me (in a very agitated state) a very personal story that ended with the punchline, “Fire in the Hole!”  Poor darling had a few too many emotional tics.  I’ve had many dinners in many Asian restaurants that went wrong for one reason or another.  But I have rarely experienced anything other than really, really good food at Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants.  I realize that the Chinese food I have eaten all my life is actually Chinese-American.  This Lemon Chicken is a perfect example of Chinese food Americanized.  That doesn’t diminish its deliciousness.  This is a fun dish to make when you have a little time and… no MAN to worry about!

The instructions for double frying the chicken cutlets came from The Shun Lee Cookbook (2007) by Michael Tong which you can buy at Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/479ibtZ  However, the sauce is an amalgamation of several different recipes found in my vintage Chinese cookbooks and online.  If I may say so myself, the sauce is excellent!  It is a sticky syrupy sauce similar in tanginess to a sweet and sour sauce but very lemon forward. Taste it and add a little more sugar if necessary.  I guarantee this is better than 99% of the Lemon Chicken dishes you will get in a Chinese restaurant.  The actual fried chicken is divine with a lightly crunchy crust.  Pour the sauce over it just as you serve it so that the chicken doesn’t get soggy.  Serve with steamed broccoli and rice and wash it down with a glass of Trimbach Pinot Gris (my house white).  Enjoy!


Fried Chicken

Lemon Sauce


    This recipe requires a bit of time management and organization. Read it multiple times before you start. Set up your "dipping station" with a pan of water and a pan of almond flour so that you are ready when it is time to batter the chicken and fry it.

    Step 1

    To Make the Sauce: Combine the chicken broth, soy sauce and sugar in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Heat until the sugar melts. Stir and let the sauce thicken a little.

    Step 2

    Add the lemon and lemon zest. Stir and continue to heat to medium until the sauce thickens. Add the cornstarch and water slurry and heat until you have a syrup. Keep stirring. Keep warm until the chicken is done.

    Step 3

    For the chicken, first prepare the cutlets. Take large boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slice horizontally so that you have 1/4 inch cutlets. Pound until thin between sheets of Saran wrap.

    Step 4

    Heat vegetable oil in a Dutch oven to 375 degrees.

    Step 5

    Make the batter. Combine and whisk the TBS of AP flour, soy sauce, egg, sherry, salt and pepper. The almond flour is not included in the batter - it should be in a separate shallow pan so that you can dip the chicken filets in it. Whisk the batteruntil smooth.

    Step 6

    Dip the chicken into the batter, then briefly dunk them into the pan of water, then into the pan of almond flour.

    Step 7

    Slip the chicken cutlets into the oil. You are frying these twice, so fry them the first time until they have a light golden color about 2 minutes. Let them drain on a rack over a cookie sheet. When you are ready to serve the dish and the lemon sauce is ready, bring the oil back up to 375 degrees and fry the cutlet again for about a minute and a half.

    Step 8

    Serve the cutlets on a platter garnished with steamed broccoli. Ladle the sauce over the cutlets, and sprinkle sesame seeds and sliced scallions over the dish.

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