How to keep chicken breast juicy and moist—when you have too many birds in the freezer
As much as I like chicken, I probably won’t be eating much chicken for a while when we come out of this quarantine.
When someone asked what I miss most at this time, I said it’s eating food I didn’t make. I guess I should’ve said, it’s eating food I didn’t make that didn’t have wings on it.
This situation has presented challenges for home cooks from corners we never imagined. Like, cooking with very limited ingredients. Or, in this case, having too much chicken in the freezer.
Don’t judge—I didn’t hit the fresh food aisle to hoard chicken like it was toilet paper. Two weeks ago, a Lalamove rider-shopper brought me four whole chickens, instead of the four chicken breast fillets (plus six chicken thighs) on my grocery-shopping list (insert face palm emoji here).
Now a month into this lockdown, and I’ve learned to manage expectations when ordering groceries. I know the shopper will always come back with at least a third on the list unavailable. (By the way, I’ve had no luck ordering groceries anywhere online. Also, there’s a flour shortage—true story—since everyone has become not just a cook, but also a bread baker, present company included, but that’s for another story.)
When I got over the incredulity, I thought, plenty of chicken is better than no chicken at all. We’ll be eating chicken till kingdom come then.
I was only planning to make chicken salad sandwiches, hence the breast fillets, but with the surplus, I’ve made three batches of chicken salad since, each only slightly different from the last, depending on what ingredients I had.
The first had chopped walnuts and onions, and pineapple bits to brighten it since I had no celery; the second had apples and walnuts; the third, quartered seedless grapes and pickle relish, a small jar of which I found in the back of the fridge. Served on toast or on its own, the salad makes for a great quick lunch while doing presswork from home.
A technique I learned in cooking with chicken breast is to boil plenty of seasoned water with aromatics (carrots, celery, onions, if available; I used a teaspoon of herbes de Provençe because that’s all I had) in a Dutch oven or heavy-lidded pot.
When the water gets to a rolling boil, place the chicken breasts in the pan and cover. Turn off the heat and leave for two hours. The heat will be enough to cook the chicken through and keep the meat juicy and moist. Chicken breasts get a bad rap because many people cook them dry. Poaching them this way takes care of that.
Once, I also added extra chicken breasts in the Dutch oven to poach. Then I grated some fresh ginger, chopped some red chilies, then added liquid aminos (or soy sauce) and sesame oil, and we had Hainanese chicken for dinner.
Whole roast chicken is also one of the easiest and most satisfying things you can make with a bird—just season generously with salt and pepper, or stuff with lemon and garlic or rosemary if you have them—and place in 375ºF oven for about 50 minutes to an hour. No special tricks; it comes out perfect every time.
2 chicken breast fillets, poached and chopped into chunks
¾ c mayonnaise (or ½ c Greek or plain yogurt, for a healthier version)
¾ c pineapple tidbits (or chopped apples or grape slices)
1 celery rib, chopped
1 tsp chopped red onions (optional)
1 Tbsp pickle relish (optional)
½ c chopped roasted walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Serve on its own or with toast or crackers.
Easy Hainanese Chicken
2 chicken breasts, poached and sliced
For the dipping sauce, combine:
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 chopped red chili
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
Serve with chicken rice—instead of plain water, you may cook the rice in the chicken’s poaching liquid.
Baked Chicken Thighs
6 chicken thighs
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely sliced
2 Tbsp calamansi juice
1 tsp herbes de Provençe (or chopped fresh rosemary or thyme)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix the marinade. Place chicken with the marinade in a Ziploc bag. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Bring chicken to room temperature, about 15-20 minutes. Arrange chicken in a cast iron pan or roasting pan. Bake for 45 minutes.
You can make gravy with the drippings by adding 1 Tbsp flour. Whisk together on medium low heat until thickened. Season to taste. INQ