This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.
By Catherine Newman
Four recipes to transform that boring package of chicken breasts into a delicious low-carb meal
It’s true that lots of food folks will turn their noses up at skinless, boneless chicken breasts. They’re not famously flavorful or famously juicy, and they’ll never have saucy bones to gnaw or crispy skin to snap off and devour. But, oh, they are so easy. And they make such a perfect blank canvas for mouth-watering sauces. Plus, if you have a package of chicken breasts, you’ve got dinner.
But let me say two things, before we head into the recipes: 1) salt, and 2) high heat. If it’s at all possible, you should salt the chicken the minute you get it home, regardless of when you plan to cook it. Simply take it out of its packaging, salt it liberally on both sides (this means using your fingers and a salt dish, not scattering on negligible amounts from a shaker), and stick it in a covered container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it — or up to 2 or 3 days. This seasons the chicken all the way through, and it means you can skip the salting that most of these recipes call for as a first step.
As far as the high heat goes, it’s browning that brings an almost indescribable layer of deliciousness to the simpler chicken preparations. Over lower heat, the chicken will be more inclined to steam palely in the pan, and you will end up feeling like you made a surprisingly good airplane meal rather than something deeply excellent.
Beyond those caveats, these recipes count on all the usual ingredients for yumminess: fresh herbs and fragrant spices, butter and olive oil, tomato sauce and garlic and oozy cheese. And pretty much any of them will make you feel like you ordered chicken at a restaurant, which is what I’m always going for when it comes to chicken. (If your favorite restaurant chicken is hot wings, though, you’ll have to wait for a later column.) Add a side of cauliflower rice and a big green salad, and dinner is done and done.
1. Herby Grilled Chicken
At some point I stopped marinating chicken because, honestly? You get the most flavor from a marinade if you put it on the chicken after it’s cooked. I don’t know what you call an after-the-fact marinade, but you’ll love how vibrant and zesty the chicken turns out when you make it this way. Please note that the ingredients here are totally flexible: you can use lemon and/or lime, you can use shallots, scallions, and/or garlic, and you can use any herbs you like.
View the recipe.
2. Classic Chicken Piccata
Traditionally, the chicken in piccata is coated with flour before sautéing, but I promise you won’t miss it here, since this dish is so succulently flavorful and fantastic. We call it “restaurant chicken” and make it all the time. Feel free to start with skinny chicken cutlets, in which case you can skip the kind of gross first step of this recipe. (It is very hard to bang on chicken with a heavy object and feel like the world is a good place to be.)
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3. Coconut Curry Chicken
This is, of course, insanely delicious. I mean, as soon as you’re talking about a rich, creamy curry, everyone in my family is all in. Well, all the chicken eaters, that is (note that you can sub in cubed tofu to feed vegetarians). If you have an Instant Pot, then this is really, really quick and you can even use frozen chicken that you forgot to thaw. But even if you make the curry in the oven, it’s still pretty easy—just a little more time-consuming.
View the recipe.
4. Chicken Parmesan
Full disclosure: mostly I don’t bother coating the chicken. I just salt and garlic powder it, then sauté it in olive oil over medium-high heat until it’s well browned on both sides before saucing, cheesing, and broiling. It is absolutely delicious that way. But if people in your family – or you yourself – will be disappointed to find bare chicken beneath the cheese and sauce, then go ahead and coat away. Yes, it’s kind of fussy kind of messy, and a little imperfect, but it’s not actually that hard, and you’re still only using one pan. This is a serious crowd favorite, so if you are feeding teenagers, consider doubling the recipe.
View the recipe.
Other chicken recipes:
Basic Simple Chicken
Baked Chicken Fingers
Gingery Napa Slaw with Chicken
Long-Roasted Chicken Thighs
10 Ways to Use Rotisserie Chicken
About Catherine Newman
Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. She also helped develop Sprout, a WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as well as Seasoned, their senior version. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health, happiness, and real food at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.
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