New Ingredient Challenge Part 1 – Meyer Lemons

Part of being a lover of cooking means knowing about a wide range of ingredients; for me that means getting my hands dirty and actually cooking with them. I believe you won’t even be open to cooking with different ingredients until you at least try.  It’s a chicken and the egg scenario: which comes first? Until you break down and make a concerted effort to cook with a new ingredient, you’ll never know if you like to cook it or not.

I’m challenging myself to cook at least one new ingredient a month. I’m going to tell you why I choose it, which recipe I tested, and my final thoughts. So let’s kick it off with some seasonal citrus: Meyer lemons.

I always see Meyer lemons pop up in late winter recipes, and I see them at most of my favorite grocery locations throughout the season (if I’m looking). For so many years I thought, “what’s so special about Meyer lemons?” Lemons are a cooking basic, a staple. One of my grandpa Jim’s favorite sayings was “bury me with salt, pepper and a lemon” because that’s really all you need when you cook anything. (P.S. I’m sure I butchered that saying but you get the jist. Remembering sayings is not my strong suit).

Cooking Light is one of my biggest sources of recipes and they often include Meyer lemons because they are a no-brainer: lots of flavor with minimal calories and fat. I decided to tackle Meyer Lemon Chicken from the January 2014 tablet “bonus recipes,” which I recognized originally from the January 2013 issue. Meyer lemons are softer, rounder and have a sweeter and less acidic taste than regular ‘ole lemons. They smell wonderful – a bit more fragrant and flowery than you expect. They peak in November – April, making them a great ingredient to help get us through what can be the doldrums of heavy winter food.

on the rhoades_lemons 1The recipe started out really strong, but I quickly realized there was no way the potatoes would cook in the amount of time (approximately 6 minutes to brown and then another 2 minutes later on.) True, the recipe says to keep the potatoes and lemons simmering until the potatoes are tender, but I realized this would be at least another 20 minutes, even with potatoes cut into 1/2 inch slices.  on the rhoades_lemons 2

Also, the chicken took much longer than the recommended 12 minutes to reach a safe temp. It was closer to 25 minutes. I found myself with a hungry husband and I was getting impatient while everything took much longer than the total of 39 minutes advertised.

on the rhoades_lemons 3At the end, we had a roasted chicken dish with lemons and hard potatoes. It didn’t feel as special as I had hoped it would. As funny as it sounds, I enjoyed eating the lemons skin and all because that’s not something I regularly EAT in a dish. But after a few bites, I was over eating lemons. I served it with a side of sauteed kale (which looks horribly black in this picture!) Overall, I would definitely try to make another dish with Meyer lemons because I don’t think my first experience was a fault of the lemons. More a fault of unrealistic cooking times and bad expectations. Maybe if all the ingredients came together better it would have been a tastier and more special dish. Next time I think I’ll go sweet and make a dessert! Happy Eating everyone!on the rhoades_lemons 4