Eating better food for less and other tales from a no-moneymoon

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Temptation of Two (Chicken) Breasts

A few weeks ago, a dear friend walked down the aisle. In and of itself, this has nothing to do with chicken.

BUT, pre-nuptials, we were recently talking about what changes once you're cohabitating, shacked up, etc. Here's what I've noticed: topics such as What's For Dinner become a looping dialogue. You know, the "What do you want?" "No, what do you feel like eating?" on repeat, every night, week after week, forever and ever amen. Really, someone making a decision on dinner should be part of the marriage vows.

The answer, so often in Lemonville (population 2.5) is not chicken. When do we ever say I want CHICKEN? Nearly never. (The Canine Taste Tester, our .5 member, would argue this but rarely has the vote because all we would eat is chicken if she could choose!) But we might come up with a regional cuisine, a flavor description or more often a shrug. Chicken is just, well, boring. It's the stuff you add to it that makes it special, or at least flavorful.

And that's what inspired this bi-cuisinal exploration -- two huge chicken breasts, staring me in the face this week. We'd had a holiday weekend of dietary debauchery (Ribs, Burgers, Hot Dogs, S'mores, in no particular order) over Labor Day, and we needed healthier dinners stat. And skinless, boneless chicken does offer a lean protein. Our local grocery was selling a "family pack" of two enormous chicken breasts for $5. Seriously, they were at least B cups, possibly C. But in my eyes they were a tempting call to action: let's divide and conquer, let's raise the bar here, let's make chicken a little more interesting than a dinnertime cliche.

So here we go:
Chicken with Yogurt and Cumin: No really, that's the recipe. Cut up one large chicken breast into bite-size pieces and marinade in 1 cup plain yogurt + 1 Tablespoon Cumin +Salt +Pepper.

Grill or saute in a non-stick pan until the chicken is white on the inside, about 3 minutes then turn it. It's spicy, tangy and very tender on the inside. I served it with a melange of veg: yellow squash, onion and broccoli. Yes, this was the bottom of the vegetable drawer

Chicken with Olives and Thyme
Cut one large chicken breast in half lengthwise. It will STILL be abnormally large. Salt and Pepper.
Heat a medium saute pan and drizzle in olive oil to coat lightly. Get it hot. Throw in your chicken, salt and pepper it, and do not turn until it has made a golden crust on one side, flip over and turn the heat back a little. Add 1/4 cup sliced, pitted mixed olives and 4-5 fresh stems of thyme with the leaves pulled off if the stems are woody. Cook until white on the inside. Mine were still very thick and took 8-10 minutes a side.

The olives will get a little crunchy and offer a salty kick that goes well with the mellow flavor of the chicken and thyme.

Alternate ending: Yes, this recipe has an alternate topping for the chicken. I also sauteed up three medium leeks, cleaned and sliced, in 1 Tablespoon butter. Cook until the leeks are very soft and add salt and pepper to taste. I originally made this as a side dish, but scooped up with the chicken, it was a wonderful silky sauce for the meat's browned outside and tender inside.

Two huge breasts make two yummy dinners
Affordable lean protein gets some new flavors
Canine Taste Tester approved

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