Savory Chicken with Lemon Pepper Mexican Oregano Sauce

Uncle Smokey here with an indoors recipe – because it is too hot out at dinnertime to use the grill. I use fresh and dried herbs plus lemon – all harvested from my own acre – but you can use store bought.

The “cover” image is “Midnight Snack” cherry tomatoes which grow very well here and taste great in this dish.  In 2017 they were an All-America Selections (.org) winner for flavor, ease of growth, and ample production.  Photo courtesy of AAS.

Local Products

If you have it – Mexican oregano (Aloyisa wrightii) is perfect for this dish. It is a sweeter flavor than European oregano, and if it is fresh be careful not to use too much.

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It is delightful to harvest fresh herbs out of your own yard. Plus many herbs feed the pollinators, like Mexican oregano.

You will simmer this chicken so a roaster from the store or even a rooster culled from the flock is fine to use, no need for a super tender cut.

Set Up

You will need a 12 or 14 inch cast iron skillet, or maybe a 10 inch dutch skillet than can hold all the ingredients as you start. It will reduce so don’t worry about overflow. In fact you will reduce the ingredients for a tasty sauce. The sauce is great as a kind of gravy if you serve this chicken with quinnoa, amaranth, or rice.

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Use the BIG skillet. Make sure you have a well fitting lid.

Chicken with Lemon Pepper Mexican Oregano Sauce

3 pounds chicken, quartered, or just thighs, or drumsticks, or breasts
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 /4 cup chopper garlic chives or 4 garlic cloves, smashed & peeled
4 - 3 inch sprigs of Mexican oregano
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Mexican oregano (also!)
2 – 3 inch sprigs of fresh rosemary 
1 teaspoon peppergrass pods – or 8 sprigs of peppergrass
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried lemon peel
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 /2 cup dry white wine (or chicken broth)
1 /2 cup chicken broth
1 /4 cup lemon juice
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Use the leaves of garlic chives. They have a milder flavor than cloves of garlic, plus the green leaves add a tad bit of fiber to the meal.

On medium heat, in up to 2 tablespoons cooking oil gently sautee the onion, add garlic chives, tomatoes, Mexican oregano sprigs (but not the chopped), rosemary, bay, 1 teaspoons peppergrass pods. Pour the wine and broth over everything. Once simmering, push the ingredients to the edges of the pan, clearing the center. Add the chicken to the pan. If your chicken has the bones in, be sure meat is in contact with the pan so it cooks well.

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If you wish, you can pre-cut your chicken so it cooks faster, but a nice long simmer makes a better sauce.

Cover and simmer until the chicken is well cooked and the thickest part of the chicken (the thighs) not touching bone reaches 175°F. This is roughly 30 to 40 minutes.

Ready to Reduce

Using tongs, transfer the done chicken to a platter and cover to keep warm (tent with foil if you wish). Remove and discard the herb sprigs and bay leaves. Bring the contents of the skillet to a gentle boil over medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until this sauce is less soupy and more like gravy. This is called “reduced” and a spoon drawn through the mixture leaves a trail. It takes 5 to 7 minutes, or you can “cheat” and add starch to thicken it.

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My fresh harvested lemons are gone for the year, but I still have lemon juice ice cubes. About 6 is just right for this.

Remove pan from heat, stir in the chopped oregano and lemon juice. Optionally season to taste with extra salt and pepper. Serve sauce in a gravy boat (or a measuring cup with a pour spout). Optionally spoon the sauce around the chicken.

More Great Herbs for Cooking

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soule-savor-kinoMore cooking and using Southwestern products in Father Kino’s Herbs: Growing and Using Them Today (Tierra del Sol Institute Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies at no additional cost to you.

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