Chicken is one of the most versatile proteins to make on a weeknight. After years of nailing down the simplest way to do it when you really don’t feel like cooking, I developed a few ideas of how to make it easy, healthy, and inexpensive. So before I get into my go-to chicken recipe, let me give you my chicken philosophy.
First, let’s discuss fresh vs. frozen. Fresh is great. It’s going to give you great flavor and texture, but let’s face it, I always get nervous about fresh chicken going bad. So if I ever buy it at the market (which I sometimes do), I keep it in the fridge for about 3 days before deciding to use it or freezing it. If I feel like chicken in those three days since I bought it, then great! If not, throw it in the freezer so you can have it whenever you want it. So let’s face it, most of the chicken I use is frozen. Because of that, instead of buying fresh chicken, I actually just buy bags of frozen chicken instead.
Defrosting isn’t as hard as you think. Here are some tips:
- My #1 tip about defrosting: DO NOT defrost in the microwave. More times than not, you’re going to end up cooking part of the chicken when you do that, and you end up with tough chicken.
- Tip #2: I stay away from taking the chicken out of the freezer and putting it in the fridge in the morning. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found the middle of the chicken still frozen. Not to mention, sometimes after doing all that work in the morning, I really don’t want chicken when I get home! So waiting until you get home to decide whether you want chicken for dinner gives you more flexibility in planning your meals.
- How I always defrost chicken is my tip #3: Put the frozen chicken in a bowl and run hot water over it from your sink. Fill the bowl with water (enough to cover the chicken), and constantly change out the water with fresh, hot water until the chicken is defrosted. This won’t cook the chicken, and it only takes about 20 minutes. So what I do is get my grain cooking (usually rice in the rice cooker), then get the chicken defrosting, and go relax while I wait.
That being said, I don’t always defrost my chicken before I cook it. Yep, that’s right. To even cut out the 20 minute defrosting process, I often cook my chicken from frozen. I’ve found that this also keeps my chicken nice and juicy in the center. So I only defrost my chicken if I’m going to stuff it, which is rare, but I’m sure you’ll find a few recipes in my blog at some point!
Frozen chicken tenders are my savior, which is why I made them a Kitchen Staple. When I get home from a long, grueling day at work, I want to do the most minimal work possible, and these are the best to cook from frozen. So, on to my go-to chicken recipe, Lemon Chicken.
What you’ll need for Lemon Chicken:
6-8 Frozen Chicken Tenders
1tbsp Lemon Pepper
1tbsp Lemon juice
Get your grill pan (or very large pan) heated up over medium heat, and spray with cooking spray. Put as many frozen chicken tenders as you’d like on the pan (I usually eat 2-3, Clinton usually eats 4-5), and then cover the pan with tinfoil. Cook for about 8 minutes, covered over medium heat, and then turn and recover. After about 5 minutes, pour in the lemon juice and sherry, and then recover and cook for about 3 minutes. This takes the gamey flavor out of the chicken, and leaves it tasting fresh and delicious.
Your chicken should be looking pretty good by this point. After it’s a nice golden-brown on both sides, take off the foil to let the lemon-sherry sauce cook down for a couple minutes, and then season with the lemon pepper.
All in all, the chicken takes about 20 minutes to cook. This is the perfect amount of time to also cook rice (white or brown) or quinoa for a grain. And with about 5 minutes left in the cooking process (so after you added the lemon and sherry), stick a bag of frozen, steamable veggies in the microwave. This is a great, easy dinner to have on any weekday night. And since each chicken tender is only about 100 calories, it’s a healthy one to boot!