Inherited Chicken Bricks
February 21, 2014 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Roommate moved out, I inherited four 15-month-old boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer. I'm going to assume they won't taste optimal. Actually, I'm expecting them to not be very palatable to me without major work. What can I do to these chicken breasts to cover up any "old chicken" flavors and textures, without drying them out? Taking any and all ideas.

Freezer burn seems to be limited - they're Foster Farms, individually wrapped, in vacuum-sealed plastic, inside a grocery bag tied shut - but the inside of the outer bag smells strongly of old freezer.

My thoughts so far:
  • Chicken fajitas:
    • Slice about 1/2-inch thick
    • Marinate heavily with salt, citrus, chile, spices.
    • Grill very hot, rest 10-15 minutes.
    • Char onions and peppers in a skillet.
    • Slice grilled chicken, add to the hot skillet and mix with the vegetables.
    • Serve with tortillas, beans, rice, salsa, etc.

  • Chicken skewers:
    • Slice into long, thin strips.
    • Marinate in soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, sake, and other things (to be decided).
    • Thread onto wooden skewers.
    • Grill extremely hot.
    • Baste with hot teriyaki/yakitori sauce.

However, both of those take a lot of work and require me to go outside to grill, which is difficult right now with my lack of spoons and early sunsets.

So, any suggestions for more things I can cook that would effectively cover up the "flavor" of the chicken breasts?
posted by WasabiFlux to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd think twice about eating them at all, since they're well, well past the USDA's recommended safe freezer storage guidelines. Bacteria still grows in a freezer, just more slowly.
posted by aspen1984 at 8:33 PM on February 21, 2014 [14 favorites]

This sounds horrible and not worth the savings of a couple of bucks. I mean, Foster Farms chicken breasts? Unless you're literally down to your last dime I wouldn't eat these. Assuming you are, you want something where the texture doesn't matter and they're saturated with something really tasty. Green chicken chili, for instance.
posted by HotToddy at 8:37 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd still eat them, but I think fajitas and skewers would be too texture-dependent to be optimal. I'd thaw them, poach in salted water with garlic and onions until just cooked through, then shred and mix with a some kind of sauce -- I'd do a tomatillo-based green salsa myself -- and use in tacos.
posted by neroli at 8:38 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Per your guidelines link, "The guidelines for freezer storage are for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely."
posted by WasabiFlux at 8:38 PM on February 21, 2014 [14 favorites]

I'd eat them. I'd throw them in a crock pot with some broth, drain it after 8-10 hours, shred it, mix it with some bbq sauce or adobo and go at it with tortillas or buns or whatever.
posted by sanka at 8:38 PM on February 21, 2014 [15 favorites]

I would saturate them in a curry sauce. Or feed them to my dog. But not both.
posted by jamaro at 8:39 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also come in to suggest slow cooking them.
posted by royalsong at 8:41 PM on February 21, 2014

aspen1984, from your link: The guidelines for freezer storage are for quality only. Frozen foods remain safe indefinitely.

If they were vacuum-packed and aren't showing any defects other than the inside of the outer bag being kind of musty, I think it probably won't be quite as bad as you're fearing. Not as good as new, but not bad. Unfortunately, breasts are already pretty finicky (e.g. you can't just stew them indefinitely in a heavy sauce the way you would with dark meat.) Your ideas are good ones, in part because they involve cutting them up into smaller pieces (since any texture deficits, in particular, are going to be more evident if you're eating your way through a whole breast.

If you don't mind putting in kind of a lot of effort for chicken salad, this recipe (which involves poaching breasts, then cutting them up into small pieces and mixing them into a heavily-flavored binder) makes the best chicken salad I've ever tasted (which, I know, doesn't sound like much, but it is sublime.)
posted by kagredon at 8:42 PM on February 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'd put them in a crock pot or in a pot on the stove with a lot of salsa or some other acidic sauce and cook them all day until they're shreddable. We do this with frozen chicken breasts all the time - for old breasts you'd want several jars of sauce in the pot plus extra for when you shred the meat. Four breasts will make enough enchilada or taco meat for 4 people.
posted by muddgirl at 8:49 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think dry here is the wrong way to go, and similarly you also don't want to make the chicken the centerpiece of the dish. Here's another vote for shredding them and saturating them in a flavorful sauce, salsa, cheese, or gravy. A lot of recipes that traditionally call for chunks of chicken will also work with finely shredded meat. Lentil soup, lentil curry, quesadillas, coronation chicken, chicken soup, chili, oatmeal, saag, makhani, cacciatore...
posted by d. z. wang at 8:58 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would say poach them, shred them, and make enchiladas. Covered in green sauce and cheese and sour cream, the chicken is barely relevant.
posted by padraigin at 9:03 PM on February 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Shredded chicken, I totally agree. It should handle most of the mushiness you're likely to get.

You can also coarsely mince the chicken in a food processor and treat it like ground chicken, and thus fab up some meatballs or the like.

Treat it as high-protein filler for whatever dish you're already making well flavored. You can also mix it in fresher chicken to add bulk while the other chicken leads with the flavor.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:24 PM on February 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Casserole. With cheese. Maybe cream of something soup (I make my own from scratch, it's easy, recipes abound online).

Something where the chicken is not the star. Maybe chicken broccoli cheese.
posted by bilabial at 10:05 PM on February 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please do not slow-cook them for hours, it'll make the texture of the meat even worse. They're chicken breasts, they don't have enough fat and connective tissue to benefit from being cooked past the point of being done,

I agree with poaching them in something intensely flavorful (pick your favorite saucy cuisine), shredding the meat, and using the chicken as an ingredient rather than the star.
posted by desuetude at 10:33 PM on February 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

In my experience, if you defrost frozen chicken breasts in a marinade they absorb much more of it than they would under other conditions.
posted by XMLicious at 11:24 PM on February 21, 2014

I would cook them quickly, shred them, and eat them in a chicken noodle soup containing a metric buttload of green curry paste as well as plenty of other distractions (prawns, those reformed fish balls, sugar snap peas, whatever). Plus coconut/fish sauce/lime juice.
posted by emilyw at 3:57 AM on February 22, 2014

Hoisin Chicken

Thaw out the chicken breasts, then cut them in halves with sharp knife or clever.
Put them into a sauce pan with a little oil and enough water to just cover them. Add chopped spring onions and about 3/4 cup of white wine.
Add two small chunks of pealed ginger root.
Cover with lid and allow to simmer until meat is soft.

Mix one cup of catsup with 2 tbs. of hoisin sauce.
Add to chicken dish mixing with the liquids in the pan.
Simmer for another hour making sure that you have lots of sauce and it does not boil away.

Serve on top of rice.

posted by EZung at 4:07 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

It doesn't get much easier than this: Put one or more chicken breasts in a casserole. Pour in enough Italian dressing to just cover (the "regular" dressing seems to work better than "lite"). Cover and let it marinate for one or more hours. Bake (covered) at 350 degrees for one hour. (optional: toss in a handful of cherry tomatoes at the five-minutes-to-go mark) Serve over rice or with bread.
posted by JanetLand at 4:30 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I personally think anything is better if you fry it; maybe cut them up into chicken-nugget-sized pieces, soak them in buttermilk, and make a breading with panko bread crumbs and a lot of seasoning. (I'll let the cooking experts weigh in with whether the texture would be an issue, but I'm figuring if they're in nugget-size pieces it would counter whatever stringy texture this could have.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on February 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Indefinitely" probably assumes a constant temperature. Are you confident that there havn't been any power blackouts in the past year?
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:25 AM on February 22, 2014

Pan roasted chicken breasts with lemon and garlic. Pour additional olive oil over the tops to compensate for the lack of skin.

Defrost one thoroughly. Smell it. Chicken that is off smells, in my experience, of sulphur. If they smell off, throw out the lot.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:41 AM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would make a chicken broth with them and shred them and eat them with veg and possibly noodles in the broth.
posted by kalessin at 7:54 AM on February 22, 2014

I don't have a specific recipe, but my advice would be to use one that uses the least amount of effort and cost. There's a better than good chance they won't taste right, no matter what you do. So don't invest a lot of time and money.
posted by raisingsand at 9:02 AM on February 22, 2014

I'd probably do a chicken coconut curry. The spices will make up for any blahness in flavor, and the coconut milk will make up for dryness.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:28 AM on February 22, 2014

I would say thaw them, brine them overnight in a sugar-salt water brine, then grill them and serve with BBQ sauce.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2014

A couple of batches of chicken tikka masala would be a great thing to have in the freezer or to have a ton I people over to eat for dinner.

this is an americas test kitchen version, that we use at home a lot. I add in some molasses and soy sauce for some depth, but it's good as is. The chicken can be premade, broiled and refrozen. This is a good dish for this chicken because you'll be charring it a little bit, and smotherin it in delicious sauce. It is also nice is on salads
posted by furnace.heart at 12:37 PM on February 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd go with the poaching or stewing crowd, then use a strong sauce--BBQ, curry, salsa, etc.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:42 PM on February 22, 2014

I most recently defrosted the last chicken breast in a highly spiced brine, then poached it in a mixture of homemade chicken broth and spices. I let it cool, shredded it, then made a chile sauce with toasted ancho, negro, and de arbol chiles; charred garlic; a few spoonfuls of canned tomatoes; a sauteed shallot; and enough of the poaching broth to make it liquid; and mixed the shredded chicken into that.

It went onto nachos with beans and salsa from earlier in the week, and some cheese I had on hand. Nothing wrong or "off" with it at all.
posted by WasabiFlux at 4:27 PM on May 7, 2014

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