Meyer Lemon Chicken with Barley Risotto & Broccoli Rabe

Another weeknight!  And are you like me in that you were over skinless, boneless chicken breast about five or six years ago, but don’t always feel like taking on a whole roasted chicken because among other things, you don’t have 90 minutes to wait and don’t want to deal with chicken wings on a Wednesday night?  And do you love risotto, but feel a little nutritionally void/groggy shortly after you enjoy?

Or, does your family love roasted chicken, and want it now?

Or, are you coming home from or planning a big workout for the morning?

Just happy it’s citrus season, and want to take advantage?

Or, need a solution that’s satisfying, super flavorful and easy?

I could go on but, I bet you get the message – this dish satisfies all of the above and more.  Quick breakdown, risotto first.  We’re using barley in place of traditional risotto rice, but otherwise cooking it with the exact same steps.  Barley?  Like in beer?  Yes – in fact barley is one of the higher fiber and higher protein grains (ahem when eaten whole), so by using it in place of traditional risotto rice, we’re significantly upping the nutritional benefits while still getting to enjoy the creamy,  satisfying texture of the dish we already love.

Next, chicken.  We’re using bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.  You’ll see that we’ll treat them just like a whole roasted chicken, but they take way less time and have much less to deal with afterwards.

Finally, citrus season – have you tried Meyer lemons?  They are much smaller than ‘regular’ lemons and are available now.  They aren’t exactly sweet, but they’re not sour either.  We’ll be using them to flavor the chicken while roasting, as well as the final dish.  The Meyers are on the left here:

Meyer Lemon Comparison

Servings: 3-4, plus leftover Barley Risotto.  Easily scalable.

Time: 45 minutes

Hands-On Time: 20 minutes

Special Equipment:  Ladle, Large Non-Stick Frying Pan or Saucepan with a Lid, Roasting Pan, Cheese Grater, Rubber Band, Food-Safe Scissors



– 2 Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Breasts

– 1 Meyer Lemon, sliced into thin rounds

– 5-6 Sprigs Thyme

– 2 Tsp Butter (or Two Small Pats of Butter)

– Salt & Pepper

Barley Risotto:

– 1 Cup Barley Pearls

– 1/2 Yellow Onion, Finely Chopped

– 2 Cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped

– 1/2 Cup Dry White Wine

– 1 Tsp Butter

– 32 Oz Lemony Chicken Stock – for this, either replace the onions with lemon quarters in our homemade stock, or, add 1 quartered lemon to the stock warming pot when it comes time in the recipe

– 1 Lemon, Quartered if adding to stock in the warming pot

Broccoli Rabe: 

– 1 Bunch Broccoli Rabe

– 2 Tsp Olive Oil

– Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

– Grated Parmesan Cheese, To Taste

Broccoli Rabe
Get your greens into this flavor bomb of a dish!


The Chicken:

These steps follow the same principle as those in our Optimizing Chicken Basics recipe – we’re roasting at 425 Degrees F for 20 minutes per pound.  Since the chicken breasts I used here weighed 1.58 lbs total, I rounded up and roasted for 32 minutes.  Just like with the whole bird, we’re seasoning the meat by surrounding it with fresh herbs and flavorful foods.

Pre-heat oven to 425 Degrees F.

– Set the Chicken Breasts in the roasting pan.

– Place one sprig of thyme under each breast, then place about 1/2 the lemon slices underneath as well.

– Next, separate the skin from the breasts and place (stuff) the remaining thyme sprigs and lemon slices between the skin and the meat.  Add the butter here too.  Pull the skin back over the ingredients as best you can –  sometimes the skin is not covering the entire breast to begin with.

– Season with salt & pepper & momentarily set aside.  We’ll be putting the chicken in the oven once it’s at 425 Degrees F, about 1/3 of the way through the risotto prep.

Prepared Chicken Breasts for Roasting

The Barley Risotto: 

The essence of this dish is that the grain is absorbing the warm stock in batches over time, about 45 minutes.  Once the first ladles of stock are added, you can start to multitask, but ongoing attention is needed – best to stay in the vicinity of the cook top.  The good news is that risotto keeps well in the fridge for 4-5 days.

– Place the chicken stock in a pot over low heat to warm.  (If necessary, add the lemon quarters.)  Place the ladle within arms reach on a spoon rest, or right in the pot if you can ensure it won’t catch on your sleeve and pitch the stock throughout the kitchen.

– Melt the butter over medium heat in the large non-stick frying pan or sauce pan, then add the onions.  Sauté until beginning to turn translucent, stirring regularly, about 4-5 minutes.

– Add the garlic and stir to incorporate.  Cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly to constantly.

– Add the white wine, then the barley.  Stir and let wine cook down, 2-3 minutes.

– Add approximately two ladlefuls of the warm stock to the mixture, stirring once or twice.

– *At this point, place the prepared chicken breasts in the pre-heated oven.  Set a timer according to the 20 mins per lb rule.   The timer is mandatory while multi-tasking!*

– Back to the risotto: let the ingredients simmer, checking regularly, until most of the liquid is absorbed.  You will start to see spaces between the grains, like this:

Barley Risotto Cooking

– When the grains are at this point, simply add the same amount of stock again and repeat the simmering/absorbing process.  After a few rounds, you will notice the grains start to enlarge.  Check one for doneness around the 45 minute mark by biting one grain.  It should be chewy but not crunchy and not mushy.  If it needs more liquid, continue to add in rounds but check doneness after each one at this point.

– Once the grains have absorbed enough liquid to be considered done, simply turn off the heat and cover.

– When the chicken timer tells you it’s ready, pull the roasting pan from the oven and cover with foil.  Now for the last step…

The Broccoli Rabe:

This dish uses blanched rabe, which is essentially quick cooked rabe. This is a great way to prepare rabe – it’s too tough and bitter when raw, and just unacceptable mush if it’s over cooked!  This  step is the quickest and thanks to a helpful rubber-band trick, plus scissors, low-mess.

– Set a large pot of water, deep enough to submerge the entire bunch of broccoli rabe, on the stove over high heat to boil.

– Set a mixing bowl with the same amount of *ice* water next to the cook top.

– Hold the broccoli rabe like a bouquet and wrap a rubber band around the stems.

– Once the water boils, hold the rabe by the end of the stems and dunk into the boiling water until the leaves are submerged.  A pot holder comes in handy as you hold your hand over the steam.

Rubber Band Trick for Rabe









– Leave submerged for 2-3 minutes.  Then, using the pot holder again, remove the bunch from the water and plunge immediately into the ice bath to halt the cooking.  Swish it back and forth some.

Rubber Band Trick for Rabe








– Then, still holding the stems, squeeze the bunch/gently shake back and forth to remove as much excess water as possible.

– Next, hold the bunch over a small frying pan, and using the scissors, snip small pieces right into the pan.

Rubber Band & Scissors Trick for Rabe







– Drizzle the olive oil over, and add the red pepper flakes.

– Saute over medium heat about 5 minutes.

Putting it all Together!

– Place the barley risotto on a plate or shallow bowl, leveling it out with the back of a spoon.

Lemony Barley Risotto


– Add an evenly distributed layer of the rabe over the risotto and sprinkle with a little Parmesan.

– Finally, carve the chicken breast and place on top of the broccoli rabe, including the lemon slices (the entire slice is edible and delicious).

Garnish with the roasted lemon slices and the jus from the roasting pan.

So Delicious & Satisfying!!!



3 thoughts on “Meyer Lemon Chicken with Barley Risotto & Broccoli Rabe

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