Get the Recipe: Sonoma Chicken Salad
Chicken is a bit of a conundrum: Everyone wants to cook it for dinner, but it rarely tops anyone’s list of exciting ingredients. “Tastes like chicken” is an amusing punchline that definitely doesn’t give this bird its due. Let’s fix that!
A great chicken dish should knock your kitchen mitts off and leave you hoping for leftovers. Baked Chicken with Spinach, Pears and Blue Cheese fits right in that category. It takes advantage of boneless skinless breasts, one of chickens’ fastest cooking and healthiest cuts, and cooks them simply but perfectly.
By browning the breasts quickly on the stovetop for deep caramelized flavor, then slipping them into a hot oven to finish cooking, they’ll be delicious and juicy with little risk of overcooking or undercooking. And while the chicken finishes in the oven, you can focus on the fantastic garnishes — sautéed spinach, sweet and savory pan-seared pears and (my favorite!) tangy blue cheese. All this is in a dish that’s on the table in about 30 minutes. Masterful!
The Secret to Chicken Breasts
White meat’s leanness is one of its strengths nutritionally but also one of the challenges of cooking it. Lean cuts are prone to drying out, leaving them chewy and flavorless. Luckily there are many simple remedies:
Use a two-step process such as the one described in our recipe above: Brown the breasts in an ovenproof skillet on the stove top and then let them finish cooking in the even heat of the oven.
Pound the breasts before cooking until they’re uniform in thickness. They’ll cook more quickly and evenly and be less likely to dry out. This is a great approach for grilling or breading and pan-searing.
Make thin cutlets from very thick or large chicken breasts: Place a breast half flat on a cutting board and slice through it horizontally with a sharp knife while applying gentle downward pressure on the breast with the palm of your other hand.
Use moist heat to keep the meat juicy. Think about steaming, poaching and quick braises or stewing.
Finally, check your chicken throughout the cooking process. You can pierce the thickest part of the breast and check that the juices that run out are clear, not pink, or rely on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part — breast meat should register 160 degrees F.
More Easy Recipes to Cluck About
Big-flavor ingredients such as sage and prosciutto make this Roman-Style Chicken Saltimbocca irresistible. The recipe uses chicken thin cutlets to ensure even, quick cooking.
This Green Curry Chicken with Rice Noodles gives chunks of chicken breast a quick braise in a flavorful coconut milk braise for an awesomely delicious dish that belies its quick prep.
And if your family can’t do without chicken nuggets, switch it up with this fantastic Crispy Coconut Chicken Tenders; a double dose of coconut makes them really memorable, even for adults!
What are your go-to chicken breast recipes?