Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nana Benza's Lemon Chicken

This incredible entree is from my dear friend and former business partner, Ron Benza. This Benza family recipe is almost 200 years old and comes from Corleone, Sicily. It's delicious...incredibly easy to make...and I typically pair it with roasted asparagus and shallot rice (

Ron first shared the recipe in 1991 when our ad agency put together a cook book as a Christmas gift to our clients and employees. I started out following the recipe in the early years, but later made two modifications which I have included in this recipe. Nana Benza used to use whole chickens, chopped up into parts. I switched to using skinless, boneless chicken breasts many years ago. It makes the recipe both easier and healthier. I also threw in a dusting of grated parmesan for a little added depth of flavor.

While there are a lot of recipes for lemon chicken out there, this one is really special because of the sauce. Yet the sauce is the epitome of simplicity...10 cloves of crushed garlic, oregano, olive oil and fresh lemon juice. The sauce is added to the dish at the very end, after the chicken has cooked. It takes on the heat from the dish and commingles with the fond to take your taste buds to all-new heights. This recipe serves four.

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (tenderloins removed)
4 heaping tablespoons of toasted breadcrumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
10 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra for drizzling
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice*
1 tablespoon of whole-leaf Turkish oregano or 1 teaspoon ground oregano
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ.
  2. Make the sauce. Put 1/3 cup olive oil in a small bowl. Add 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, oregano, crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper. Stir and set aside.
  3. Put 4 chicken breasts in a gratin or casserole dish just large enough to hold them all flat. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on each. Sprinkle each breast with 1/2 teaspoon of salt,  1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1 heaping tablespoon of breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of grated parmesan.
  4. Cover dish with foil and place in oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove foil and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  5. Remove dish from oven. Stir sauce and add to dish. Let sit for 1 minute, then place chicken breasts on individual serving plates. Scrape fond (browned bits) from bottom of dish, spoon sauce over chicken breasts and serve.

Wine pairing: Riesling or domestic Sauvignon Blanc

Ron Benza

1 comment:

  1. I stumbled upon this recipe by accident.This dish is amazing! So easy and off the hook delicious! To top it off, my last name is Benza, which makes it even better. I don't know who Ron Benza is, but all Benza's are related! I'm sure if we did a bit of family treeing, we would discover how we are related. Plus he looks like me and my relatives.

    Tom Benza