Chicken stir-fry prepared with lemon preserves in New York. Using heat and sugar to make your own quick preserve, or lemon pickle, to sharpen a stir-fry, can save you a trip to the store. Picture: Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times
Chicken stir-fry prepared with lemon preserves in New York. Using heat and sugar to make your own quick preserve, or lemon pickle, to sharpen a stir-fry, can save you a trip to the store. Picture: Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times
Lemon preserves add some zest to this chicken stir-fry. Picture: Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times
Lemon preserves add some zest to this chicken stir-fry. Picture: Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times
A jar of preserved lemons sitting i n the fridge is a boon for the  busy cook. 

Chopped up and tossed into salads, stews and sautés, they add a bright, nuanced burst of flavour in one speedy step – as long as you happen to have some on hand.

There is, however, another possibility that takes 10 minutes: making your own quick lemon preserve, or lemon pickle.

Just blanch a thinly sliced lemon to remove some of its bite, then simmer it again in a pot of heavily sugared and salted water. 

You’ll end up with lemon slivers that are at once salty, sweet, sour and bitter – and far more interesting than they should be given the amount of work that went into them. 

They get even better when you fry them in oil, letting their flavours caramelise and turn honeyed.

SAUTÉED CHICKEN With Meyer Lemon and Rosemary (Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

680g boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1cm strips
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp minced rosemary
Kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1½ Meyer lemons
2 tbs sugar
2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped.

METHOD 

Toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon oil, rosemary, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper.
Trim ends from a lemon, quarter lengthwise and remove seeds. Slice quarters crosswise into 0.5cm slices.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the lemon slices, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. 
Drain under cold running water. Rinse out the pot and refill it with a cup of water, the sugar and 1 tablespoon salt. 
Bring to a boil. 
Drop in the blanched lemon slices and simmer for 3 minutes. 
Drain under cold running water, pat dry.
Heat a pan over high heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons oil. 
It should start to simmer immediately; add the lemon slices and stir-fry quickly until golden. 
Stir in the leeks and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until leeks are soft and golden, about 3 minutes. 
Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
Push the leek mixture to one side of the skillet; stir in the chicken mixture and sear, without moving, for about 4 minutes. 
Mix in the leeks and continue cooking until the chicken is no longer pink, for about 3 to 6 minutes more. 
Drizzle with juice from the remaining lemon half, to taste. 

The New York Times