It is easy to fall into a routine making the same dishes week after week. After all, you know the recipes by heart and you can whip it up quick, especially important on week nights. But then one day you open up the fridge, pull out that chicken breast and start to pull out the regular ingredients, and think – there has got to be other easy ways to cook chicken. Then you remembered you came across this great blog that had a lot of ideas to spice up the weeknight chicken. Sure enough you printed it out and/or book marked it. Chicken has never been the same since and you and your family rejoice.
This post is an ode to the bird we all love to serve, but have a desire to change-up our routines a bit. Many of these ideas can also be applied to the other white meat, most poultry, and the white flakey fish fillets (Cod, Flounder, Halibut, etc). And they are ideas, feel free to see what is in your spice rack and come up with your own new combinations.
A few up front notes:
The salt amounts are for Kosher Salt. Some table salts are stronger, some others weaker. If you are not sure, use what you would for your type of salt and taste, taste, taste.
I always use low sodium low-fat broths, or unsalted butter. I do use butter over any butter substitute. I never use margarine. Butter just tastes better, acts better or even strained bacon fat in very small amounts just adds so much flavor. You don’t have to use a lot, but you will find even a little makes a difference in flavor.
All of the fats have the same amount of calories.
I find chicken stock to be a good substitute for butter/oils, or in place of white wine. It evaporates so you may have to add more to keep the items moist.
The amounts given are estimates. If you think an ingredient seems to be too much or too little, feel free to change the amounts to your liking. When in doubt, error on the smaller amount. That is the fun of cooking, experimenting. One great way to experiment with different combinations is to save the small glass condiment jars. Mix up a combination of herbs, adjust in the glass container (or bowl) and taste before seasoning your food. That way you will know if you have something too salty or bland before it comes out of the pan or oven.
On to the guest of honor: Chicken
Chicken is quite bland on its own. As a result, it makes for a great canvas to showcase many different herbs, spices and seasoning as it takes on seasoning fairly easily.
My one note on chicken breasts – They are the driest part of the chicken. I would not recommend oven cooking, unless you cook with skin on, whole chicken, brine or marinate them over night first. In fact, you will get flavor into the chicken even with 30 minutes of marinating.
I can understand why the oven may be a preferred method – however, you can speed up stove top cooking by slicing the chicken breast in 1/2 length-wise (make it less thick. It will cook fast and soak up flavor fast too). They are actually sold this way too. I rarely buy chicken breasts anymore, unless I want to stuff them. Instead, I get Chicken tenders. They are the part of the breast underneath that wants to be taken off. They offer the same low-fat health benefits of the breast, but no more prep work required. And they cook fast. They are easy to dice for a quick stir fry. If you like dark meat, supermarkets now sell thighs de-bonned and skinless. I use these a lot cut up for skewers, stews, etc.. because they have more flavor and remain moist even if cooked in a crock pot. Chicken breasts get dry and lose flavor.
No matter the cut of chicken you use: below are come good quick combinations with herbs most people have and basic amounts assuming two normal chicken breasts halves (ie: from one chicken). If you want more info on any of the below, I would be more than happy to write out a more formal recipe. Please just post a comment in the “Questions” tab for requests.
I assume the butter is “no salt added”. If your butter already has salt. DO NOT ADD additional salt until you taste.
- Classic: 1 TBS Rosemary chopped , 1 tsp salt (to taste), 1 tsp pepper (to taste), 1 TBS olive oil and 1 clove garlic. Mash all together using a mortar & pestle or small electric copper. Taste for salt content, adjust if necessary, then rub over chicken. Cook as you wish. (Dijon will also work here too)
- Lemon: 1 TBS Lemon, 1 clove garlic (diced), 1 TBS white wine, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1 TBS cooled melted butter and 1 TBD Dijon if you like mustard. Mix all together. Pour over chicken and let sit at least 30 minutes. You can also add herbs such as oregano, parsley, thyme, basil or tarragon, About 1/2 TBS dried herbs total. If you intend to cook in the oven, add a little more butter (fat) and about a 1/4 – 1/2 cup of low-fat/low sodium chicken broth)
- Chinese-ish: 1 TBS Teriyaki, 1 tsp ginger diced, 2 TBS onion diced, 1 garlic clove diced, pepper to taste (no salt needed), 1/2 TBS sesame oil, can use 1.5 TBS white wine, sherry or chicken stock if desired. Pour over chicken and let sit about 30 minutes. Cook as you wish. (This can be done as a stir-fry, add your favorite vegetables such as red pepper, onion, zucchini, bok-choy, celery, broccoli, etc..)
- Winter: 2 – 4 Sage leaves, 2 – 3 TBS butter, salt, pepper. This is best used if you have the skin on – you would place the sage under the skin and “baste” with the butter. Ideally, browned butter is best giving it a nutty flavor. That is just melting the butter until it just begins to turn brown.
- Italian-ish: Italian dried Italian seasonings 1/2 tsp each: Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, sage, salt and pepper, 1 tsp garlic and 1 tsp onion powder. Mix together, and rub over chicken. If in oven, this is makes a great crispy skin on the chicken.
- Greek-ish: 1 TBS Lemon, 2 tsp Oregano, 1 clove garlic minced, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper I would used 1/2 tsp thyme as well (1 tsp onion and 1 tsp garlic powder are optional)
- Simple: Plain old olive oil, salt and pepper. This is great in the Forman grill. Just toss the chicken with the ingredients, and cook.
- Indian-ish: 2 TBS Curry powder, 1 tsp salt – you can buy this anywhere. You can also add additional paprika, pepper, cayenne pepper if you want more heat or color.
- Stovetop Italian Chicken “stew”: 5 leaves fresh basil (or 1 TBS dried – just add with the tomatoes), 1 can canned diced tomatoes italian flavorings, 1 cup chicken stock, 2 chicken breasts (diced, cut thin or whole), 1 TBS Flour, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 onion diced, 1/4 cup diced green or spanish olives (omit of you don’t like olives), 1+ TBS olive oil, salt and pepper.
- Stove TOP:
- Heat pan with oil (enough to cover pan)
- Season flour with salt and pepper. Toss chicken in flour mixture to lightly coat.
- Brown in pan, turning so browned on all sides, remove to platter
- Add garlic, onion and saute until onions are translucent
- Add tomatoes, chicken stock, olives and simmer 5 minutes
- Add chicken back in let simmer 2 -3 minutes, then tear basil and add to pan. Mix well, and check chicken for doneness. When done, remove from heat and serve with rice or penne
All of the above (except the tomato stew dish) can be turned into a marinade.. Dry or wet. Just rub the chicken with the mixtures, put in a plastic bag or dish, cover and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes or as long as over night (or freeze to use another date). Turn at least once. Pull out and cook in your Forman grill or on the stove top.
For stove top, you can use a non-stick pan, grill pan or cast iron. Heat until it gets hot. Add a little oil (unless the chicken was rubbed with oil), and sear over med-high heat. Then turn. Timing depends on cut. But chicken should NOT have any pink in the center. As with most meat, you should let it sit before you cut into it, but until you get a good feel for doneness by touch, then go ahead and take one piece and cut into it to check it out. If not done, re-sear the cut ends, and return to pan.
One tip for a great added flavor to almost any of the recipe ideas I listed above is roasted tomatoes. I use Roma, cut them in 1/2 or 1/3s. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano. Roast 375 – 400 for 40 minutes, give or take until the tomatoes are shriveled, yet still have some juice to them. These can be refrigerated added to sauces, salads, dressings, just tossed with pasta, etc. They are sooo yummy.
The italian, curry, singular spices, etc.. can be used to flavor roast potatoes as a side dish. Cut the potatoes into cubes and blanch the potatoes (boil until almost done). You can do this the night before while you are finishing up dinner for “tonight”.. then refrigerate the blanched potatoes.. the next night, toss the potatoes with desired spice/herb mix a little olive oil or pam and bake until crisp.
Other Side dish Options
Steamed veggies – easy to do, you can put in microwave with a little water and cook 1 – 2 minutes depending on amount. Season with a little salt and pepper, butter/oil optional.
Sauted veggies – Slice some garlic, add to pan with butter and a little olive oil (or just oil or chicken stock). Saute garlic for about 30 seconds. Add fresh veggies, a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper. Cook stirring occasionally for 3 – 5 minutes depending on veggie.
Rice Pilaf – Make your favorite rice according to instructions, when done and still hot, toss in diced veggies (red/bell pepper, chopped broccoli, zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, peas, asparagus, sky’s the limit and the combinations are limitless)
Simple salad – your favorite lettuce or lettuce mixture, sliced or diced veggies, fruit, tossed with your favorite dressing. Croutons optional
Pasta – dice/chop the chicken and toss with cooked pasta, a little oil or butter, salt/pepper to taste (or add hot sauce, red pepper flakes, etc..)
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