Start in the morning or the night before if you don’t get up before 9am.
I will usually remember to do this about 3 am when I am most creative and moving around. An episode will render me ghoul’s hours.
Use about 4 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts, one of those big packages. Try to get one with as little fat on the breasts as possible. Take it out of the freezer or the fridge, take it out of the plastic tray it’s in.
I flick the raw fat I trim off the chicken at the 3 cats who weave about my legs like sharks in a tank. I feel justified in not throwing anything away. What’s a treat for them is one less thing to rot in my garbage. There are some days that I can not literally step outside my door. Like today. The mail is still in the mailbox, I haven’t returned the videos I got from the library, I still haven’t ordered the take out chinese food that I want so bad because I just can’t leave the house. I stayed up all night last night. Took a 3 hour nap around 3 pm after I let the cats in from the back yard. I spent all yesterday trying to cheerlead myself into leaving to just take the videos to the library. I’m so ashamed I haven’t asked my son to take the videos to the library preferring to pay the late fee and the scowl of the librarian to dealing with my son’s pitiable look or disgust.
16 oz bottle of cheap Italian dressing (or make your own).
I like to make my own on a good day. I have an enviable spice rack that includes Black Salt, Old Bay Seasoning, Turmeric, Jaggery, Coriander Seeds, Fennel Seeds from our garden, spices most people don’t even know what to do with. When I’m creative it’s like a joyful artist palette when I’m depressed I avoid most but the basics overwhelmed by the thought of the range of tastes and smells.
1½ cups rice, make white rice but you can make brown just adjust for cooking time.
You can use couscous or orzo or a mixture of rices like wild rice, long grain or basmati rice. Adjust for cooking times and liquids. Usually I just go for my Government white rice. It’s easy and that’s what an episode requires.
1 to 2 cups vegetables sliced. Look for appropriate left over vegetables or “fresh” ones ready to go over to the dark side or frozen ones like: corn, onions, mushrooms, carrots, not green peppers or cruciferous (broccoli, cabbage types,) or vegetables with distinctive flavors that will over power the dish. Slice the vegetables into medium size slices about ⅓ inch width.
So I don’t feel guilty I’ll clean out the fridge at this point. My excuse is that I’m looking for extra ingredients that will add to this dish. Reconstituted sun dried tomatoes, chopped garlic preprepared, wilted chard, wilted cilantro, rusting mushrooms, cooked onions, anything in the vegetable chiller that doesn’t have to be thrown out and isn’t designated as a an ingredient for another dish. Is there a bit of chicken that is leftover from previous meal hiding in the bottom shelf? Toss that in. Toss in the parsley that is in the tube I bought a month ago. Whatever but use careful judgement, sniff everything and make sure there’s no mold or out it goes. When I’m done I’ll not feel so bad having regained some insight into what I actually have on hand and having cleaned a little in the process.
I usually have the chicken breasts in my freezer as I bargain shop all the time. $1.99 for them per lb. is an okay deal. When I take them out I put them in a bowl that’s a bit bigger than they are and dump about ⅓ to ½ the bottle of dressing over them turn them over in it a few times and let them defrost the day. Have animals? Cover the mix with a pot lid. If the breasts are already defrosted put them in the fridge at this point. The lid doesn’t matter unless you’re a dirty college kid.
One of the cats has gotten clever. Titan has learned to jump up on the counters and investigate around. I suspect the bastard has licked the plastic I use to cover the marble board where I cut my foods. I have more than one so I always have one drying in the sink drainer while the other waits on the marble board. I’ve learned to cover foods or put them in the fridge after he devoured a cup cake I was saving for my son off the kitchen counter.
Use a largish loaf pan (glass or metal will do,) to bake the breasts with the Italian dressing in. Add the vegetables but submerge them under the breasts in the dressing. Cover the loaf pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 325˚ or 350˚F for about 2 to 3 hours depending on how hot you make the temp. Low and slow makes a nice moist breast.
When the breasts are done chill them separate from the vegetables until cold so they slice as nicely with a knife blade that is NOT serrated. Reserve the liquid that bakes out of the breasts. Take out about 1 cup of it and pour it over the dry rice in a ceramic 3 quart Corning ware type dish. Add about 2⅓ cups water that has had 2 typical chicken bullion cubes dissolved in it or use broth or stock equivalent. Leave the rest of the liquid with the breasts as they chill. Microwave the rice uncovered in the ceramic dish placed in a glass pie plate that fits the ceramic dish. This way if the liquid boils over it won’t dirty the floor of your microwave.
The breasts easily shred so be gentle when you slice them. They soak up any sauce or dressing you use on them so use extra if you want a very defined taste. The other night I made a General Tsao’s sauce from a packet to cover the chicken. I should have made 2 packets as the chopped chicken sucked up all the sauce leaving it drier than I liked. My son didn’t care and he ate the rest leaving me happy that I didn’t have to consume or look at my mistake.
Now you have 3 cooked breasts and some flavorful rice ready to be eaten.
1. You can serve a breast or half a breast depending on your appetite with the vegetables and sauce poured over it and the heated rice on the side immediately foregoing the chilling process.
2. You can slice the breasts for a fast, fast stir fry by heating a wok with the pan juices and tossing in the chicken slices after chilling and slicing. Add the vegetables and thicken the sauce with a tablespoon of cornstarch dissolved in ⅓ water. Serve it with the rice.
3. You can heat up the slices and serve it over basic greens or dressed up greens with the heated up rice that is mixed with the cooked vegetables (or not, your choice,) on the side.
4. You can keep the slices chilled and get some soft taco sized tortillas, heat one at a time for 15 seconds in the microwave (or a small fry pan no oil or water in it preheated HOT, toss one tortilla in wait about 15 to 30 seconds and flip it over until tortilla is soft and pliable,) lay some lettuce or greens in the middle top with chicken slices and cover with about 3 Tablespoons pan sauce. You can add the cooked vegetables if you’d like and roll it up burrito style (both sides folded over so the sauce doesn’t drip on you.) Use Ranch or Blue Cheese Dressing after tossing the chicken slices with hot sauce and enjoy a faux Buffalo Chicken style wrap.)
5. Cold chicken can be chopped roughly and made into a sandwich staple by adding mayonnaise, dill weed, white pepper and some minced onion or dried chopped onion, sweet relish and some minced red bell pepper depending on your taste. Fancy the chicken salad filling up by adding the mayonnaise, dried cranberries, chopped walnuts and thyme. Use the tortillas like above or bread or hard tack. Place some greens on the bread or in the wrap as you like. I like as much texture as I can get. It’s almost as important as taste.
6. The chicken is mild enough tasting that any leftover chicken and vegetables can be made into enchiladas. This is what I did: 1 can olives drained and chopped, 1 can corn drained and chopped, 1 recipe enchilada sauce made and hot (I buy the el cheapo packets in the spice aisle), about 10 to 12 soft taco style tortillas, 1 to 2 cups cheese, (sharp cheddar is my favorite type,) 1 pint sour cream, hot sauce. Add about 1½ to 2 cups shredded chicken to the corn and olives mix them up well with about ⅓ of the recipe of enchilada sauce. Warm up the tortillas so they’re pliable like I directed above. Lay a log of chicken mixture in the middle maybe 1/4 cup and top it with some cheese. Add some of the rice from the original chicken dish about half of the chicken mixture on top. Roll up burrito style or open ended if you don’t mind a totally messy dish. Fill a lasagna pan that has the bottom covered with a bit of the enchilada sauce, with these rolls. Cover the rolls with the leftover sauce making sure each one is covered well. If you run out of sauce add some canned tomato sauce (add about ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp chili powder and ½ tsp oregano to ½ a 15 oz can of tomato sauce, if you have time slowly simmer these ingredients until they have cooked down to about half the original volume.) to the tops. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the rolls. Bake for about 20 minutes in a preheated 350˚ oven. Use a cake server to ease out the tortilla rolls easily. Make sure it’s a sharp server so you can get off the baked on tortilla. Place 2 rolls on a plate place a dollop of sour cream on top. Add hot sauce. I suggest Tabasco Smoked Chipotle or Cholula Smoked Chipotle as they aren’t as vinegary as most of the American hot sauces are.
One of my favorite house ingredients is almost anything with tomatoes. Sauces for spaghetti or enchiladas can be prepared with canned tomato sauce or canned chopped tomatoes, or canned whole tomatoes or fresh tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes or tomato paste. Just about any tomato product can be incorporated into a tomato type sauce recipe. Just make sure it isn’t already seasoned with spices and/or herbs. And personally I prefer fresh not cooked salsa so this recipe does not hold true to my rule.
The chicken’s enough to feed you for a few days if you’re solo and can be made into a variety of dishes so you’re not sick of them too soon. It’s also enough for a family for one or two meals. You can double it by using a glass or metal lasagna pan. Refrigerating or freezing the ingredients after they’ve been cooked ensures that if you typically forget what’s in the fridge or can’t seem to drag yourself to open the fridge door they won’t rot wasting what food you do have.