Citrus Chicken & A Little Bit of Magic in Zagreb

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Just before Christmas, Cam and I had a date in my favorite part of Zagreb: Gornji Grad, also known as Upper Town or Old Town. Gornji Grad at nighttime is special on it's own, but even more so during Advent.

In this part of Zagreb, it has felt oddly romantic to be bundled up, feeling the snow under my boots, walking with my hand in Cam's down the old cobblestone streets past a thousand years of history and culture. (I don't even like winter so a few more weeks of the cold and I may need to take that back, ha!)  We had just come from St. Mark's after listening to the most heavenly choir, squeezed next to each other on a cold pew in the barely lit medieval church. We were walking through the square and just past St. Catherine's, when a small Klapa group of old men clasped hands and shoulders in the falling snow and began singing a capella under one of the glowing gas lamps. There was no one else around and it was so sweetly beautiful that we couldn't help but stop to listen to the harmony bouncing off the stone walls and church facade. It is not often in the streets of Zagreb that you see such joy across locals' faces, but music can uplift souls to heaven. We smiled walking hand in hand the rest of the way to dinner, happy that we get to live here and experience moments like these together. There are a lot of problems here that most Croatians will talk about at length, but there is also an undeniable magic unlike anywhere else in the world.


On New Year's Day, the fireworks that had been going off in Zagreb since Christmas were finally on a break, most stores were closed and apart from the Kravat Regiment marching through Old Town, it was an incredibly quiet morning. We took John Shea and Gracie for a runaround in St. Mark's Square and to watch the Changing of the Guard. Just as they were standing at attention with the trumpeters and drummers marching in unison, the daily canon went off from Lotrščak Tower to mark noon.


We walked to Dolac Market as the Kravat Regiment marched through the Old Town back to the Cathedral. I had my two cute little helpers with us at the market tables covered in winter citrus: oranges, tangerines, so many lemons, apples, pears, grapefruit. The wheels in my head started turning, what could I do with such beautiful citrus? A lemon cake... vinaigrette for salad and fish.. and maybe exactly what my next chicken dish needed was some tangy flavor from all that citrus to lighten up a grey winter day.

I don't know how else to describe it. In the streets, parks and markets, Zagreb turned into this magical place during Advent. Just like all things in Christ do. He takes the humble, hidden, overlooked things and makes them majestic. The King was born in a manger! Even something as simple as baked chicken with fresh citrus took on newness for my family around our table. Food is like life in that way. Sometimes it's the simplest ingredients that transform into the extraordinary.


Citrus Chicken
(serves 3-4)

2 lemons
1 orange
1/3 C honey
1/6 C white wine
1/6 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp course sea salt + more for taste
about 2 lbs fresh chicken thighs, legs or wings, skin on and bone in
fresh parsley for garnish, optional

Halve the lemons and orange and squeeze the juice into a bowl large enough to hold the chicken pieces. Whisk in the next four ingredients, then the chicken pieces, tossing to cover each piece thoroughly. Cover the bowl and let marinate for atleast an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Halfway through, reduce heat to 375 degrees F. Pour the chicken and all of the marinade into a baking dish with the skin side up. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of course sea salt over the top of the chicken and bake for 40-45 minutes, depending on your oven, though be very careful not to overcook it. I cook mine for 40 minutes. The tops should be crispy and the meat should be tender. Serve immediately with some of the juices poured on top and fresh parsley for garnish.  It's delicious with roasted potatoes and Winter Citrus Salad with Feta, Walnuts, Apple and PearI hope you enjoy it!


24 comments:

  1. Definitely trying this recipe...it looks delicious!!!!!!

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    1. Thanks birthday girl!!

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    2. or I guess I should say, birthday twin! :)

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  2. I got choked up imagining the Klapa men singing in the silent cold night... I don't know why but it gets me in the feels! That photo of JS and Cam is a total farmer for sure :) And your sweater in the last pic is perfection! I can't wait to make this recipe - I've needed a new chicken idea! XOXO

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    1. Thanks, Nicholle! It was a special night. Hope you and your boys are doing well!

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  3. What a wonderful post. I love hearing all about your time in Zagreb. Would this recipe still work with chicken breasts or does it have to be thighs/wings?

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    1. Hi Rosie! Yes, it would definitely still work with chicken breasts, though I'd still look for skin on and bone in! Hope you like it!

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  4. beautiful table magic, zagreb magic, everything magic!! pinned that recipe YAY thanks i need one like that!!!

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  5. Just made this chicken tonight for dinner and sat around the table talking all about our trip to Croatia this summer! While it will be a very different time of year, I cannot wait to experience a bit of this magic you're talking about with our little ones in just a few months. Also, I am in love with your sweater in the last picture... where from? Sending warm love from Chilly Chicago!

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    1. Yay! Soo exciting. I got your email about your trip and will write back soon... and honestly I think you'll like it better in the summer with your kids - traveling is tricky here in the snow and ice!

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    2. Oops and sorry Rebecca. I forgot (hello Mom brain) to add that my sweater is from Old Navy, but a few years ago!

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  6. This dish looks so lovely that I feel like I can smell it cooking. Can't wait to make it this weekend. Love reading about your adventures. Stay warm over there!

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    1. Thank you so much, Colleen!

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  7. beautiful descriptions -- as always my dear!! Stay warm!!!!!!
    love love love -- lanneybear

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  9. I think I'm going to make that for my kids and I think week to kick off the first week of deployment. It will definitely brighten our week, thank you!

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    1. Awwwwww. I'll be praying for you.. I hope you do like it and I especially hope it and many other things brighten up the week for you guys.

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    2. How long will he be gone for?

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    3. Just a month since we PCS soon but he's been gone 11 months total for this two year overseas tour. :/ Thanks for the prayers!

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    4. Ahhhhhh. I feel that pain with you. Praying for you and your family!

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