I’m going to be perfectly honest: my least favorite part of a chicken (or turkey) is the breast. Especially when I’m cooking the whole bird. Even with brining, the breast tends to be overcooked. Boneless, skinless breasts aren’t much better.
(Much to my mother’s dismay, I prefer to cook my chicken on the bone. She sometimes wonders if I was switched at birth.)
But chicken breasts are quick and easy — perfect for weeknight meals — and I make them a lot. They’re quick on the grill, in the oven, even pan-roasted. And, with a little bit of effort, it’s easy to elevate the boneless, skinless chicken breast into something fun and tasty.
This is terrific for the gluten-free diner, especially since it sometimes seems we spend way too much time finding and preparing foods. Sometimes, we just want our meals to be easy.
What’s my trick? Interesting sauces. A few years ago, I would have sworn I wasn’t a sauce person, but as I’ve been working on my cookbook, I realize I am a sauce person. I suspect this is what they mean by writing as therapy.
My favorite sauces for chicken range from a creamy mustard and caper concoction to a lemony picatta-style sauce. In the height of summer, a salsa-like mix of tomatoes and herbs hits the spot (and offers one more way to use up those tomatoes as they overtake the garden!). In a pinch, a pre-made pesto can add a layer of fun flavor to chicken. And, of course, you can use chicken breasts as a basis for 40 Clove Garlic Chicken (trust me…it’s sooo good).
Of course, if you don’t have time to make a sauce (or just don’t want a sauce), then creative use of seasoning can help with your chicken. I always start with salt and pepper, setting the chicken aside to absorb the salt so it remains as moist as possible — dryness is the curse of most chicken breast meals. I then choose seasonings or blends that help add more flavor.
For example, a little bit of harissa adds delicious heat. Cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and other flavors are reminiscent of India. Rosemary, thyme, and oregano offer a bit of the Mediterranean to your chicken.
Finally, if you have the time and the ingredients, cut your chicken breasts into bit-sized or smaller pieces, season with salt and pepper, and brown on the stovetop. Add the chicken to chili or soups. Small pieces are perfect in stir fries. You can even make a chicken-based risotto or paella — two versions of the always-popular chicken and rice.
What are your favorite ways to prepare weeknight chicken breasts? What tricks do you have for making chicken creative and delicious? Post your thoughts below.