Seeking simple chicken recipes that can be made in advance
March 12, 2011 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Hello, home cooks! I need ideas for chicken dishes that meet my very specific, novice-level criteria.

1. Utilizes boneless, skinless chicken breasts/cutlets and no other part of the bird.

2. The entire dish can be made 4-8 hours in advance and reheated to serve. Assume I can make no additional food at the time of serving -- not veg, not pasta, nothing.

3. Unambiguous cooking criteria for the meat. I can check internal temperature and I can set a timer. But no gauging pinkness. No pricking to see what kinds of juices run out. No assessments of tenderness. I can, however, brown it.

4. Relatively simple preparation. I can prep one or two veg, but something like pad thai has too many ingredients and too much in and out of the pan for this situation.

5. No mushrooms.

Any ideas?
posted by xo to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

I adore chicken adobo (scroll down for actual recipe.) There's really no prep involved, works delightfully in a crockpot, and reheats just fine in the microwave. I don't bother with rice, although that's definitely traditional. The only thing I can't swear to is the boneless-skinless part - I much prefer dark meat so I've made it with legs, thighs, and/or the whole bird, but never just skinless breast meat. Can't imagine it'd be bad though.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:34 PM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Fesenjoon, a Persian dish, meets all of these criteria. Well, except that you eat it with rice, and while rice can be made ahead of time, it's much better fresh out of the pot. But whatever. If you're a really picky eater, you may not like it; it has an unusual (but delicious) flavor that some people just don't dig.

This recipe gets the basics right but does a few things differently.

My boyfriend (he's Iranian/the one who makes it) doesn't ever add any sugar, so definitely taste it before you add what the recipe calls for. Also, instead of all the oil and multiple pans, just use a big pot. Put the onions in with about a tablespoon of oil, coat them liberally with turmeric, and let them cook down a bit to caramelize and get delicious. Then add the chicken parts right in there with the onion. Stir it around to get the sides of all the chicken touched down to the heat. Then add the walnut mixture. All in the same pot. But follow the rest of the recipe for timing, etc.

The pomegranate syrup of which she speaks is sometimes labeled as pomegranate molasses. We get ours at a little middle eastern market (it's extremely cheap), but I have also seen it at Whole Foods. If you're in a big city you should have no trouble locating some.

It saves and re-heats wonderfully.
posted by phunniemee at 4:42 PM on March 12, 2011 [11 favorites]

put breasts in skillet. add equal parts apple cider vinegar & soy sauce - enough to cover bottom half of breasts. Add chopped/minced garlic. cook on medium-low heat ~45 minutes, turning halfway through. save in fridge.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:47 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Enchiladas. Cook the breasts any way you like, then slice or shred them. Fill wraps with chicken, cheese, salsa and spinach. Wrap tightly and line a baking pan with them. Cover in salsa, more cheese and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then jack them up to broil until the cheese is browned. Done!
posted by dflemingecon at 4:49 PM on March 12, 2011

You can poach the chicken in just about any liquid--wine, stock, tomato juice, and then reheat it in any way you like.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:49 PM on March 12, 2011

Throw a few chicken breasts in a crockpot and pour salsa over them. Enough to just cover the chicken. Set it for 6 to 8 hours. Come back, wave a fork near it and they'll basically shred themselves. Throw 'em in a wrap with a veggie or two. Quick & Easy, makes a TON of food. Keeps well in the fridge over the week too.
posted by swashedbuckles at 4:57 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I call this Chicken to Die For, and it came off the back of a Hunt's tomato sauce can. Other than searing the chicken first, it's essentially throw-it-all-in-a-pot-and-simmer easy to fix. It's also actually better re-heated after a night in the refrigerator than it is right off the stove.

Salt and pepper several skinless boneless chicken breasts

Sear them on both sides

Throw in some diced onion (frozen or dehydrated works)

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over the chicken

Pour 1 tablespoon of vinegar over the chicken

Add potatoes and carrots, celery, too, if you wish

Cover with a large can of tomato sauce

Simmer slowly for several hours (2+) either on the stove or in the oven stirring occasionally

If there's chicken and sauce left after the potatoes and carrots are gone, it goes equally well over rice.
posted by JaneL at 5:11 PM on March 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

Preheat the oven to 350. Put the chicken breasts in a lightly oiled baking pan with some sliced potatoes, cherry tomatoes, chopped onions, carrots, whatever you want. Chop everything so it's bite-sized, say. Just put the vegetables around the chicken, not too crowded. Salt and pepper the whole thing. Cook it for an hour. It's done and delicious. I do this all the time because you can walk away from it for an hour and it takes only ten to fifteen minutes to prepare.

Fancy variations involve sprinkling chopped fresh herbs all over everything and broiling it at 500 degrees for the last five to ten minutes. You can also marinate the stuff ahead of time and just pour it into the pan before you bake it.
posted by interrobang at 5:18 PM on March 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do you know how to poach chicken breasts? I usually poach them using that method, but with some salt and a quartered onion instead. Once cooked, shred the chicken and make White Bean & Chicken Chili. Reheats beautifully, and freezes well too.
posted by geeky at 5:49 PM on March 12, 2011

Well, last night I salt and peppered a chicken breast, sauteed it over high heat in a cast iron skillet with some onions and yellow squash, and ate them with pesto. It was pretty excellent; you could eat this cold or hot, and would work especially well on a grill or grill pan. For the pesto, you chuck a cup of fresh basil leaves, a cup of spinich leaves, a half cup of walnuts, and a 1/3 cup of parmegiano regianno in a blender. Drizzle in about a half cup of olive oil, plus some salt and pepper, blend. Add more oil if too thick.
posted by Diablevert at 5:55 PM on March 12, 2011



1C heavy whipping cream
4-6 chicken breast halves, further halved
2tbsp butter
misc salt, pepper
1 jar NOT DICED oil packed sun dried tomatoes
1 C white wine (or exactly 1 of those little mini bottles)


cut chicken breasts in half so they are thinner (so you want to slice along the plane)
pat both sides with pepper and salt and a little paprika
melt butter in skillet on medium heat
put breasts in skillet (a large iron skillet is useful here)
cook 3-4 minutes until outside is browned
cook 3-4 minutes until outside is browned
add wine, cream and tomatoes, raise heat and bring to boil
stir as best you can
reduce heat to medium
cook 4 minutes
remove chicken to separate plate (check temp if you care)
raise heat to medium-high
cook until sauce has thickened, stirring constantly (about 3 minutes at most)
reduce heat
pour over chicken on plates

this takes all of 20 minutes, start to finish, and requires little attention and is *incredibly* good (and if you do low carb, it's also low carb).
posted by rr at 6:51 PM on March 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cut chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks. Season with salt and pepper, then brown. Mix with an equivalent amount of cooked pasta, several big handfuls of shredded mozzarella, and enough jarred spaghetti sauce to lube it up. You're done with prep at that point - reheat it later until the cheese melts.

More work but tastier: add italian herbs, olives, parmesan, tomatoes, etc.
posted by Gianna at 7:51 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was a vegetarian for about fifteen years, and have only started eating a bit of chicken and fish again in the last couple of years. So take my advice with a grain of salt.

However, I've found that brining chicken before cooking makes a huge, huge difference. The most basic brine is just salt and water, but sugar is a pretty standard ingredient as well. (This does not make the chicken sweet; it just counterbalances some of the saltiness and, I guess, caramelizes somewhat during cooking. Sugar is an important component of many dishes—tomato sauce, chili, salad dressing—that don't taste sweet.) You can use ordinary white sugar, but brown sugar or molasses will give a richer flavor.

Brining achieves three things: it helps to keep the chicken moist and juicy, it tenderizes it somewhat (the salt breaks down some of the proteins), and it seasons it.

Here's the best part: you can add whatever else you want to a brine. Exact measurements don't matter, and you can use pretty much whatever you have on hand, or whatever strikes your fancy. Some things to try: black pepper, generous sprigs of lightly bruised fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil, tarragon), bay leaf, a spoonful of Dijon mustard, crushed garlic cloves. Avoid acids (such as wine, lemon juice, tomatoes, and vinegars); they'll make the meat tough.

The standard brine is about 1.5 cups kosher salt to 1 gallon water. (If you're using table salt, use only 1 cup—it's denser than kosher salt, and therefore saltier by volume.) Google for "poultry brine" and the like; you'll find tons of advice.

Brine in the fridge. I forget why, but every source I've read says to do this, so I do it.

Brine longer for bigger pieces, skin-on cuts, and meat on the bone; brine shorter for thinner, skinless, and/or boneless cuts. Don't overdo it.

After brining, rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels before cooking.

Then, cook the meat however you like. If you're looking for simplicity, just throw it in a pan (or on a grill) and cook until it's done. I can't tell you exactly how long to cook it, because that's not how it works. Every pan, stove, and piece of chicken is different, and I don't know how hot you have your burner.

Don't reuse brine! This is a serious health risk.
posted by ixohoxi at 9:40 PM on March 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

My wife and I really like Mark Bittman's chicken and rice recipe. It works perfectly well with chicken breasts (I quarter them) - but definitely use stock as the cooking liquid in this case, as it will be missing the richness of simmering a whole chicken in water. It's fast and it reheats very well in the microwave. Bittman is worth looking at in general, his recipes are generally fast and simple and use relatively few ingredients.
posted by nanojath at 9:51 PM on March 12, 2011

* preheat oven to 350
* coat bottom of a casserole pan with flavourful cooking oil (i use olive oil)
* chop half a sweet onion and about a cup of any other piquant/earthy veg you like into chunks (you don't want them, but i add mushrooms), put into casserole pan and spread evenly on bottom
* dust chicken on both sides with any/all of the following: sea salt, fresh ground pepper, white pepper, Mexican oregano, sage, marjoram, dash cayenne
* put chicken on top of onions, evenly spaced as possible (you'll want a wee bit of breathing room)
* lightly drizzle a little of same cooking oil over top of chicken
* upend a can of diced roasted green chiles (or, roast and dice your own; i use Hatch brand) over chicken and spread to an even layer across all cutlets
* put in oven and cook for ~40min
* grate Monterrey Jack or crumble Queso Fresco; spread over top of dish, return to oven
* when cheese is melted (~10min), pull out - you can cover immediately, but wait to stick in fridge ~10min.

reheats beautifully - can be portioned individually and frozen, too.

when doing the full meal deal, i serve with Vigo black beans & rice, corn tortillas heated in the oven on a tortilla griddle during the cheese melting phase, avocado slices, and a dollop of sour cream on top.
posted by batmonkey at 1:32 AM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

That Bittman chicken & rice recipe is a super-flexible one he's revisited a lot in his books. You can go as simple as that recipe, but you can also layer in more flavor by adding any or all of the following after cooking down the onions:

* several cloves of garlic (or granulated, dried garlic)
* diced (or roughly chopped) bell peppers
* olives (without the brine, have a care if they're salty)
* tomato paste and/or canned tomatoes
* tarragon, oregano, and/or other herbs (fresh or dried)

If you have it on hand, try substituting stock for some or all of the water, or even the juice drained from the tomatoes, if you use them. Including all of the above makes my husband's favorite dish, a paella-esque, soupy chicken and rice. We prefer it with chicken thighs, but I bet it'd be pretty good even without them.
posted by deludingmyself at 11:16 AM on March 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

This chicken curry recipe is one of my favorites. It tastes even better reheated. Serve over rice (which can also be reheated.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:20 PM on March 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

What is meant by the 'in advance' part of this question? Are you going to be pressed for time during the meal portion, or?

My current favorite chicken recipe is 'chicken en papillote', which is easily the most amazing and delicious thing in the entire universe. It takes about 45 minutes to cook.

1. Preheat oven to 415.
2. Take a sheet of parchment paper. Read below for sizing requirements.
3. Place chicken breast on middle of paper.
4. Add 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary on top.
5. Add a veggie or two -- halved roma tomato, quarter-inch thick potato slices, asparagus, whatever. You will have a better idea about what to add after you make this once. Notably this is almost impossible to screw up.
6. Wrap all that up in the parchment like a christmas present and place on baking sheet.
7. Secure with kitchen twine, or do it like I do it ghetto style and merely flip the package over so the folds are maintained by the weight of the package.
8. Repeat 2-7 as many times as you need chicken breasts.
9. Bake for 40-50 minutes.

Extract packages from oven. Flip over/untie so that the recipient gets a mostly-still-assembled package on their plate. Enjoy reaction as recipient opens the most fragrant, juicy, delicious chicken package with amazing baked veggies that they have ever had in their life.
posted by felix at 4:22 PM on March 16, 2011

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