Après the valentines: Francesca’s delicious lemon-leek chicken

Might any of you feel a bit let down after last weekend’s and last night’s hype about romance? Though my husband and I shared a lovely meal last night to celebrate the romance of our twenty-five plus years of marriage, all good things must come to an end. So it was with our Valentine’s dinner.

As we lingered over coffee, our drinks turned from hot to lukewarm. The rose the waiter gave me began to wilt.

Today, I sit at my computer with a peace and joy tinged with nostalgia as I remember Valentine’s Days from those twenty-five years. Some were spent abroad. Most were spent here amid our many gifts and blessings at home.

I remember a Valentine’s dinner I cooked for next-door neighbors, also the occasion I happened to learn that the husband was born on Valentine’s Day!

I remember Valentine’s suppers when our daughter was little, meals en famille, with heart-shaped cakes and our table’s centerpiece a “Valentine’s box” decked in red and white crepe paper. The box sported a slot at the top, in which family members inserted surprises for each other such as homemade cards or pieces of chocolate.

I remember Valentine’s Days spent at parties with friends.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is certainly romantic, but in my opinion, that romance should be for all kinds of people, not only for couples. To my way of thinking, Valentine’s Day is perfect for fellowship and friends.

And so I remember a special gift once given me by my dear friend, Francesca, visiting from Italy at the time. Her gift was a wonderful meal she cooked for my family–the recipe straight from her Tuscan  kitchen in Viareggio. That meal’s main dish is now part of my family’s regular repertoire. To compensate for any après Valentine’s let down, I offer this today as my gift to you!


Here’s what the dish looks like when almost done. The recipe is simple–easy to make–and my family asks me to make this all the time.

Francesca’s Delicious Lemon/Leek Chicken

Ingredients: about a pound of boneless chicken thighs, two (or three) large leeks, depending if you like lots of leeks with your chicken, juice of one lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.

  1. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces
  2. Slice the leeks fairly thin (wash thoroughly to avoid grit, and use only the white part of the leek and a little bit of the green)
  3. Put leeks in fry pan — pour 1/8 to 1/4 cup of olive oil over them, depending on how “oily” you like the dish
  4. Put chicken in the fry pan over the leeks
  5. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken, to taste
  6. Sauté/stir fry at medium high heat (#7 on an electric range) for about 5 minutes, then add juice of one lemon and continue to cook.
  7. After about five minutes, add a little salt and continue to cook. Water will release into the pan.
  8. Continue to cook until the chicken is done. The leeks will be soft and tasty.
  9. Serve over rice.
  10. Note: you can add more lemon juice if you like this dish to be “lemony.” You can also use white (breast) meat instead of thighs, but be careful not to overcook since white meat can taste very dry.)

This dish is absolutely delicious. My recipe is somewhat imprecise since I obtained it by watching Francesca cook, but imprecision hardly matters–the dish is easy to make and tweak to your taste, wonderful to serve on a cold winter’s night. Depending upon what you serve with it, you can also make it a special meal for Spring. Many times, I have served it to guests. Everyone seems to love it.

So much for any post Valentine’s let downs. Just serve Francesca’s delicious lemon/leek chicken to your family or friends. Better yet, merely feast on it yourself! You’ll be glad you did.

Grazie, cara Francesca. Here’s a Valentine’s rose from my kitchen to yours!

Buon viaggio,

Rita Elizabeth

My Valentine's dinner rose isn't wilted any more


About RitaElizabeth

I'm a recently widowed wife and mother who loves to use ideas and experiences from travel to enrich my family's life at home. I blog to share ideas with you and to hear your ideas and comments.
This entry was posted in Domestic Arts, Entertaining, Food, Friendship, Recipes, Romance/love, Valentines and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Après the valentines: Francesca’s delicious lemon-leek chicken

  1. Janet Murtha says:

    Thanks so much for the recipe, Rita Elizabeth! It looks very good and simple enough for even me to try. Great!

  2. Janet,

    Thanks for stopping by. My family loves this dish. Remember, you can tweak the amount of lemon juice and oil and use white meat instead of dark. If you try it, do let me know!


  3. Rita, what a lovely post on your Valentine memories. I agree that the day can be for everyone, not just couples. The recipe sounds delicious. I’ve never tried leeks, but I think I will certainly give this one a try. Thanks for sharing! Hugs, Diane

    • Hi, Diane,

      So glad that my recipe might introduce you to leeks. If you like onions, you’ll probably like leeks–when they’re cooked, they’re on the order of onions, but with a much gentler flavor. I didn’t start using them until I was well into my thirties and once I tried them, I loved them. Just be careful because they can have a lot of grit in them from soil. One way to make sure you get all the grit out is to cut them up first, then put them in a clear glass bowl of water to rinse. Take the leeks out, but leave the water in the bowl. Put the bowl on a white towel. If you can see any grits/dirt in the water, then you know you have to rinse the leeks again. Empty the bowl and fill it with clean water and go through the process again until you’re sure there is no grit after you take the leeks out. (If you have a white bowl, use that instead of the clear one and you can dispense with the white towel. Any grit or dirt is easier to see against the color white.)


  4. polly says:

    What nice memories you have. The chicken dinner looks real good and I love your rose. I will have to try the recipe but use chicken breast as no one here like dark meat. Thanks for sharing it. Take care Polly

  5. Hi, Polly,

    Thanks for stopping by! When I cook this recipe with chicken breast, I cook the leeks until they’re almost soft and THEN add the chicken and cook. Breast meat, though delicious (I love it!) easily dries out, so I make this recipe adjustment when I use white meat. You might want to do the same.

    Regards, Rita

  6. polly says:

    Thanks Rita I will try this with the recipe, Niagara falls is just 3 hours from Kingston mine daughter and I have been going up every year for the last few years, and stay for a few days it is a nice get away. Rainbow bridge is the main crossing in Niagara between Canada the US. I think I should have a photo of it from our last trip up.

    Hope you have a great day. Polly

  7. kenny2dogs says:

    Hello Rita, I have been eating too much chicken of late, so I may just substitute chicken for Pheasant. I like the wild taste, strong and earthy.

    “All good things must come to an end” My heart goes out to you and your husband.

  8. Thank you, Kenny. It’s so good to hear from you…your comment lets me know that you’re doing okay.

    My husband is doing okay under the circumstances–our Valentine’s dinner had to come to an end, however right now, we’re being optimistic and “planning on” the doctors at Stanford (where his cancer is being treated) will continue doing their brilliantly successful medical care for him. While his cancer is metastatic and cannot be cured, they have been doing a great job of extending his life. In about three more weeks, he will have beaten the first set of odds.

    Thank you for caring about us and letting your heart go out to us. We are letting our heart go out to you, too! I think of you often and am always glad to see you post.

    Pheasant! Oh, do let me know how the recipe turns out with that pretty, wild bird!

  9. Francesca says:

    Hi sweety! I did not think that a so simple recipe become so popular! In place of the lemon you can use beer, try it! If you remember, one evening, I cooked the fish together with India and Andrea, that yes it was a terrific recipe!
    Hug Francesca

  10. Hi, my dear Francesca! Glad to see you here. (Sorry it took me so long to reply, but as you know, my husband has been ill–he’s better now.)

    Oh, wow–I can use beer, too? I can’t wait to try it.

    Yes, I remember that evening when you and India and Andrea cooked for us; that was a fabulous dinner. You must come visit again and see our new house!

    I’m so glad that your delicious cooking is becoming famous.



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