When Lemonade opened at Fashion Island in August, I was amazed at local reaction. It was much more “Finally!” than “What is this place?” Clearly, lots of people were already crazy-in-love with the modern cafeteria mini-chain way before it came our way.
The publication of chef Alan Jackson’s “The Lemonade Cookbook” (St. Martin’s Press, $30) generated similarly serious, but more specific interest. “Is the chicken chili in there?” “Chicken Basque?” Both are, plus braises found at the restaurant, including the first one I looked for when the book arrived, red miso beef. It’s an improbable mashup of Asian, barbecue, and Mexican flavors that needs only rice to complete its mouthwateringness, I tasted it at a preview of the O.C. restaurant and have been thinking about it since.
With this book you can replicate the new-age chili mac recommended by a server at the Fashion Island restaurant—layer the Lemonade macaroni and cheese with the aforementioned chicken chili. I wouldn’t be surprised if most fans’ favorites are found among the more than 120 recipes, with the generous number of marketplace salads, with and without legumes and grains, that are the heart of the Lemonade menu. The namesake drink is covered, with 10 varieties from cucumber mint to green apple jalapeño.
I suspect many regulars will flip immediately to the book’s sweets section. Next to the vegetable-centric salads, house-made baked goods are a hallmark, and there are classic-with-a-twist cakes, cookies, and pies, as well as a couple of flavors of the signature flying-saucer-sized macaroons that Jackson rightly says are “more Moon Pie than miniscule.”
The recipe for chicken Basque appears below. After a Lemonade-loving friend made it her first question about the book, I thought I’d better take a look. Along with bell pepper and onion you’d expect from the name, it contains artichoke hearts and olives. The dish was perfect for the transition from summer cooking to braising weather. I got pitted kalamata and green olives at my favorite Persian market, and canned, unmarinated artichoke hearts at Trader Joe’s. And just as at Lemonade, leftovers made great sandwiches.
Chicken Basque from ‘The Lemonade Cookbook’
Squeezing lemon onto the dish at the end is essential! That little bit of acid brings out all the flavors in the broth and balances out the richness of chicken thighs.—Alan Jackson
4 pounds bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided plus more for seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
½ cup flour
¼ cup neutral vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, large dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
¼ cup sherry vinegar
24 pitted green olives
24 pitted kalamata olives
2 4-ounce jars artichoke hearts in water, drained, rinsed, and quartered
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 quart chicken stock
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Season chicken liberally with 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and paprika. Dredge chicken lightly in flour to coat all sides, tapping off excess.
In large, wide Dutch oven, heat oil. When hot, add half of chicken and brown 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Remove browned chicken to platter and repeat with remaining pieces, removing to platter when done.
To drippings in pot, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook and stir about 3 minutes, until vegetables soften and get some color. Pour in vinegar, stirring to deglaze. Add olives, artichokes, tomatoes, and chicken stock. Nestle chicken back in pot, along with any accumulated juices, and season with remaining salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, cover, and transfer to oven. Bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Check after 1 hour and lower oven to 350 degrees if simmering too rapidly.
Garnish with lemon wedges before serving.