Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What to make when you have chicken that HAS TO BE cooked?

So, I took some chicken out of the freezer the other day with the intention of making a stir fry. I have some bottled schezwan sauce that I was planning on tweaking a bit, and some frozen "stir fry" veggies. Nice, quick, easy...except I really wasn't in the mood for eating stir fry.

That's one of the down sides of planning your meals ahead. Everything sounds so delicious when you make your list, but by the time you need to start cooking it, you might not want it.

I HAD to cook this chicken. What was I going to make?

I opened the fridge, stared in there blankly for a while, then closed the door. Opened the cupboards, stared in there blankly for a while, then closed the door. Got distracted by Iron Man Armored Adventures with Quinn, then realized that we needed to eat and I needed to stop procrastinating...and then it hit me.

I had an idea!

Checking the fridge again, I had eggs, mozzarella, parmesan, lettuce, caesar dressing, focaccia, and the chicken. In the cupboard I had jarred pasta sauce, spaghetti, and bread crumbs.

This was a no brainer...I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner!

Chicken Parmasan!

I don't have measurements here...because it's not really a recipe that you need to follow to the letter. Remember, a few posts ago when I said that you just need to know what tastes good and then put those flavours together? If you've ever had chicken parm in a restaurant, you already know how it works...you just need to have a little faith in yourself and give it a go!

You can do it (Tom *cough*)!

So here's what I did...the timing is pretty easy on this meal as well.

- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

- Rinse and pat dry chicken breasts (I cooked up 3 small ones, boneless, skinless).

- In shallow bowl, beat one egg.

- In second shallow bowl (or plate), put some bread crumbs (I'd say about 1/3 cup?), pepper, a titch of salt, and a handful of parmesan cheese (either freshly grated, by you, or that stuff you buy in the fancy pants cheese section already grated for you...not the Kraft stuff), and some italian herbs, dried, whatever...I used some chopped fresh basil from the garden. Alternately, you can also buy some "Italian seasoned bread crumbs" and not have to fuss about it.

- Get a baking sheet, line with foil (because I'm lazy and hate washing baking sheets). I also use a baking rack so that the chicken gets crispy on the bottom too, but that's not imperative. It's not the end of the world if you don't have one.

- Dip a chicken breast in the egg, and then the breadcrumbs to coat. Place on baking sheet (or rack) and repeat.

- Pop chicken into preheated oven for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how big they are. I use two methods to check doneness...a digital thermometer should read 165F to kill all the pathogens (plus, it will continue to cook a bit after you remove it, AND you'll be putting it back in to melt the cheese anyway), or I actually cut it open and look. For this recipe, you're going to be covering it up anyway. Who cares if there's a cut in it?

Ok, so you have about 20 minutes to kill at this point. Why not make some homemade croutons?

I have some "Tuscan Herb Focaccia" for some portobello burgers later this week. I cut one up into cubes, tossed in some olive oil, placed in another (foil lined) baking dish, and toasted in the oven. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn, but you're looking at about 10 minutes. Pull them out and let them cool.

Pasta cooking time (you still with me, Tom?)

- Put a pot of water on to boil.

As far as timing goes, the chicken should be nearly done when the water boils. This is where you need to be a multitasker, but it's nothing you can't handle (Tom).

Get all your stuff together in these last moments: jar of tomato sauce (I used PC Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce because it's what we had), slice some mozzarella (maybe 1/4" thick?), pasta (we love the Healthy Harvest spaghetti), mixed greens, parmesan cheese, caesar dressing, and croutons.

Ok, you ready?

- Put pasta in boiling, salted water and turn down a bit so you don't have boil over. Stir this pasta occasionally so it doesn't stick.

- Pull chicken out of the oven. Spoon a couple of tablespoons of sauce (yup, right out of the jar!) onto chicken breasts and top with sliced mozzarella. Sprinkle on a bit more parmesan cheese, and place back in oven to melt.

- Start your salad. Place a couple of tablespoons of ceasar dressing (we use the type you find in the produce section...it's super tasty!) in the bottom of a bowl, toss in your mixed greens, and mix to coat with dressing. Serve in bowls, toss in a few croutons, and top with a bit of parmesan cheese (I love using a veggie peeler to slice cheese ribbons on top...looks all "fancy pants")

Salad is done.

- Check your chicken...cheese should be melted by now. If you like a little browning on top, hit up the broiler and KEEP AN EYE ON IT! I like it just melty, and I'm a total spaz, so I avoid the broiler thing as much as possible (or most of what I make would be burnt).

Chicken is done.

- Check your pasta. Should be al dente (we should all know what that means by now, but if you like your noodles smushy, cook it until you like it). Drain pasta in a colander. While it's doing its thing in the sink, pour some of that jarred sauce into the bottom of the hot (now dry) pasta pot, give the colander a shake to get rid of any extra water, and plop the pasta into the warming sauce. Toss it around to coat with sauce, and you're ready to plate!

Pasta on the plate, chicken beside it, a little more shredded parmesan (Death by Parm?), pepper, fresh chopped basil if you have it, et voila! You've made a really fancy fricken dinner, using what you probably have in your cupboards, and it was pretty easy, no?

Enjoy, and revel in the compliments.



CinnamonOpus said...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand... there's tonight's dinner sorted.

Hooray for chicken that MUST be eaten! That is my excuse, and I am sticking to it.

Jacy said...

I'm glad you found it useful :) It was one of those, "Man, I love having a decently stocked pantry" moments for me...and it looks like I totally planned it!

CinnamonOpus said...

And the verdict? It was delish. Easy peasy, and reasonable numbers for those of us who are counting nutrient values.

Okay, I cheated a little bit. I used Shake and Bake Italian. Because I have the lazy.

But the rest was ALL YOU, BABY!

Jacy said...

No Ma'am, it was all YOU!

The Shake n Bake was a great idea!! It's all about using what you have!

Parker said...

I have a couple days off next week and am going to try this! See my problem is that I don't have anything in my cupboards except for a few granola bars, boxes of cereal, a couple packages of soup and some crystal light. My fridge is even more sparse!
I'll let you know how it goes and thanks for thinkingbof me.

Jacy said...

Well, Parker, if you're going to be making this for your "pets", I'll be pretty impressed! A four legged chef?? Amazing! ;)

Seriously, Tom, here is your shopping list:
- 2 chicken breasts
- box of panko bread crumbs (or regular breadcrumbs, or italian shake n bake as CO suggested)
- jar of pasta sauce (the PC Fire Roasted Tomato is great)
- ball of mozzarella
- you should already have pepper
- grated parmesan cheese
- spaghetti
- an egg (if you do breadcrumbs...if you do shake n bake, you don't need an egg)

You know how to reach me if you have questions :) One day we'll cook together!