Lemon butter chicken is boneless chicken breast, pan seared in butter with garlic and lemon, then served over wilted spinach. Lemon butter chicken is a balanced, succulent dinner that’s easy enough for weeknights, but special enough for date night. One skillet cooking makes for easy clean up, too!
Y’all know that feeling where after taking a bite of something causes an illicit groan of delight, complete with eyes involuntarily rolling skyward, only to realize upon opening your eyes that you’ve attracted the attention of everyone within earshot? Yeah…the first time that I bit into a piece of Lemon Butter Chicken, I about embarrassed myself with my audible reaction.
The very first time that I experienced lemon butter chicken was on my first official date with Bacon Slayer. We had been friendly for a few months, but still getting to know one other. (Not that kind of friendly!) We would get together and do sporty things like roller blading, taking long bike rides, or watching the Red Wings play on television. We’d talk on the phone for hours and hours. More than half of the time we saw each other involved competitive activities in which he invariably left me in the dust–all of which left me a hot, sweaty, winded mess with zero makeup on and a damp ponytail. Shexay! Besides…we had both come out of relationships in the past year and had no interest in dating anyone. We were friends in the truest form of the word.
That is…until Bacon Slayer announced a few months into our “friendship” that he thought it was about time that he took me on a proper date.
Boom. Just like that, we were dating. So much for the resolve to stay single! I guess I should’ve figured out his true motives the first time we went rollerblading and I met his parents. It was about a billion percent humidity and over 90 degrees F outside. As such, I was wearing spandex shorts and a sports bra. I probably had a giant scrunchy in my hair because–hello!–it was the mid-’90’s. Aaaand I met his parents after a six mile sprint-on-wheels on the surface of the sun. I’d come to find out that we parked we’d parked our cars in front of their house because they lived close to the trail. I’m still horrified by the impression I must have made, but my MIL insists she doesn’t remember my fetid choice of workout gear. Bless her.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that the first time that Bacon Slayer ever saw me showered and wearing something other than smelly athletic gear was the night he picked me up for that first date. He was accustomed to seeing me in all my stinky, competitive glory.
Our first date took us to Giovanni’s Ristorante–a small dining establishment in the heart of what was one of Detroit’s premier Italian neighborhoods back in the day. Giovanni’s began as primarily a pizzaria and take out kind of place, but eventually blossomed into a place known for it’s fine dining. At the time of my first visit, the neighborhood was a bit sketchy, but the restaurant still thrived.
I planned to order fettuccine alfredo, because that’s what I always ordered at an Italian restaurant. Bacon Slayer insisted that I try their Lemon Butter Chicken because it was his favorite.
I waffled, instead offering to just try a bite of his chicken because it felt all sorts of wrong to go to an Italian restaurant and not gorge myself on pasta. Here’s where the details get a little fuzzy…all I remember was him insisting that I order my own lemon chicken because he was confident that after tasting his dinner, I would regret not ordering my own. He may or may not have mumbled something about having seen how much I eat, but I can’t say for sure.
Fran, the owner, was our server that evening. She was tickled that we ordered the exact same meal on our first date. At the time, Bacon Slayer worked at a nearby four star hotel, so he was a regular to the restaurant. He often referred hotel guests to Giovanni’s for dinner. Giovanni’s often sent dinner over to the hotel staff, so they had a good working relationship. Fran introduced me to just about everyone at the restaurant that night, staff and patrons alike. I felt like I was meeting Bacon Slayer’s parents all over again! Only with less sweat and spandex involved.
When our lemon butter chicken was served, I was immediately entranced by the intoxicating aroma of lemon and garlic.
One bite in, I involuntarily closed my eyes and let out a groan of pure bliss, while I savored the moment. However, my sound of approval must have been rather loud. As I opened my eyes, I realized that Bacon Slayer, and the patrons sitting nearby, were laughing at me. Was I feeling a bit abashed? Definitely. Contrite? Not in the slightest. That was some seriously good Lemon Butter Chicken!
When Fran came back to our table, she couldn’t help but tease me with, “I hear you like the lemon chicken, eh? You come back here for your first anniversary, and I cook it for you for free!”
We returned to Giovanni’s several times that year, and made a special point of going there on our first anniversary. In fact, we went to Giovanni’s for every major milestone in our relationship: engagement, wedding, pregnancies, new babies…you name it and we celebrated it at Giovanni’s! Shortly before moving north, Giovanni’s had a fire that rendered the building a total loss. Since the once thriving Italian neighborhood that housed the restaurant was a mere shell of it’s former glory, patrons and local media wondered if Fran would either close up shop for good or move the restaurant to the suburbs. She did neither of those things.
Instead, Fran rebuilt and expanded Giovanni’s Ristorante on the same ground, in the same neighborhood where she had spent most of her life. She said that the neighborhood would never revitalize without thriving businesses, and Giovanni’s was a cornerstone to the neighborhood. I can’t help but respect her conviction to keep doing what she loved where she’d always done it…in the neighborhood that she grew up in.
I hope you enjoy this lemon butter chicken recipe!