Chicken breasts are the busy person’s salvation. When you have a late night at work, they defrost in a flash and cook just as quickly. Inject your culinary repertoire with a little variety and try these easy takes on the ultimate quick dinner.
1. Bake them
Place some skinless chicken breasts on a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper and season with salt and pepper. Try one of these two toppings to accompany the chicken. Simply spray the suggested topping with oil and bake with the breasts:
- Halved cherry tomatoes, sliced fennel, slivered garlic and fresh thyme for a distinct Mediterranean flavour;
- Zucchini strips, fresh thyme and 30g crumbled reduced-fat feta.
Bake in a 210°C oven for about 20 minutes.
2. Use a spice rub
Grind dried spices and herbs in a spice grinder or in a clean coffee grinder. Our favourite combinations are:
- Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, paprika and cinnamon;
- Cumin, paprika, chilli powder, oregano and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Massage the mixture into the chicken breasts, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or up to 12 hours. Spray the chicken breasts with oil then grill or saute the chicken breasts for 15-20 minutes over medium-high heat, or until just cooked through. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
3. Beat them flat
Arrange the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap, then beat them to a 1cm thickness with a heavy-based saucepan, rolling pin or meat mallet. Spread one of these two mixtures over the breasts:
- Baby spinach leaves, dill and Dijon mustard;
- Chopped fresh rocket leaves, halved cherry tomatoes and rosemary.
Spray a casserole dish with oil spray. Roll the breasts with the filling inside. Secure with some toothpicks or shortened bamboo skewers and place seam-side-down in the casserole dish. Bake at 210°C for approximately 25 minutes, basting them twice with a little chicken stock.
4. Try a stir-fry
Cut the breasts into strips. Spray a non-stick wok or non-stick frying pan with oil. Add crushed garlic, grated ginger and chopped shallots over high heat. Add the chicken strips, 2tbs oyster sauce and 2tbs soy sauce. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Toss in sliced carrots, broccoli florets or bok choy and continue stir-frying for 2 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
5. Use pre-made sauce
Cut the breasts into 3cm cubes. Spray with oil and brown in a non-stick frying pan. Add your favourite jarred tomato-based pasta sauce. Cook the chicken and sauce over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Serve over wholemeal pasta or brown rice and sprinkle with basil leaves.
6. Steam them
Slice skinless chicken breast fillets into thin stips and steam them with your favourite vegetables and an aromatic herb. For an Asian twist, try snow peas, shiitake mushrooms and crushed lemongrass. Discard the lemongrass before serving and sprinkle with fresh coriander.
7. Make kebabs
Cut the breasts into 3cm cubes then slide them onto metal skewers or pre-soaked wooden skewers. Add your vegetables of choice: onion wedges, green capsicum cubes or quartered yellow squash. Brush chicken with a marinade made from 1tbs olive oil and 1tbs sumac. Grill or pan-fry the skewers for 15-20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Squeeze with a little lemon juice and sprinkle with chopped coriander or parsley.
- Don’t poke them with a fork. Use tongs or a metal spatula to turn the breasts over the heat. Every hole in the meat allows moisture to escape, which will stew the meat, making it tough.
- Salt them at the end. Salt pulls out moisture; only add it to a completed chicken dish, just before serving.
- Let them rest. After the cooking is done, let the breasts sit at room temperature for five minutes before serving so that the natural juices can be absorbed back into the meat.