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Chicken Swimming in Lemon & Garlic

A variation on the famous dish from Rao's in New York City that adds pucker and punch from extra lemon and garlic.

10:00 AM EDT on July 6, 2023

I've never been to Rao's, the legendary Italian restaurant in East Harlem that is infamous for the next-to-impossible reservation to snag. I've never even tried the jarred sauce they sell because I don't use jarred sauce. What I have had, too many times to count, is my own version of one the restaurant's signature dishes: Lemon Chicken.

My interpretation is pretty true to the original, though over the years, with lots of tinkering, I've come to believe that adding more lemon and more garlic, while also using only chicken thighs, as opposed to a whole bird broken down into 8 pieces, takes the power of this dish to another level.

Plus, it makes more sauce for soaking up with crusty bread.

Try my recipe, and if you ever get into Rao's, take the lemon chicken and let me know which version you prefer.

Chicken Swimming in Lemon & Garlic

Chicken Swimming in Lemon & Garlic

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Recipe by Andrew Cotto


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 8 8 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on)

  • 2 2 -1/2 cups fresh lemon juice

  • 1 cup 1 extra virgin olive oil + 2 tbs

  • 6 tbs 6 minced garlic

  • 1 tbs 1 red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 cup 1/4 minced flat leaf parsley

  • salt & pepper to taste


  • Pre-heat the broiler.
  • Trim the chicken thighs of excessive fat and sinew.
  • Season to taste with salt & pepper.
  • Put the chicken, skin-side up, on a baking sheet that has been coated with 2 tbs of olive oil.
  • Put the baking sheet under the broiler for 8-10 minutes (making sure the skin does not burn).
  • Add the garlic and vinegar to the lemon juice.
  • When the chicken skin is crispy, turn over the thighs and allow to broil for 4-5 minutes.
  • Whisk the olive oil into the lemon mixture.
  • When the bottoms of the thighs are browned, turn them back over to skin-side up.
  • Cover the thighs with the lemon mixture and return to the broiler for 4-5 more minutes.
  • Remove the chicken thighs from the oven and keep covered on a platter.
  • Return the baking pan to under the broiler and allow the sauce to thicken for five minutes.
  • Remove the baking pan and pour the sauce over the chicken.
  • Sprinkle with the minced parsley.
  • Serve with lots of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

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