Raise your hand if you get bored with chicken.
I’m right there with you.
Believe me, I love chicken — it’s relatively cheap, everyone likes it and there’s a lot you can do with it.
So why do we get bored so quickly? Because life happens, therefore that mouthwatering chicken dish you planned to make for dinner didn’t.
Despite your best intentions, work ran late, homework mania began the second you walked in the door — requiring your immediate attention — and rather than offering the joy of cooking, the night turned into hurry up and get something on the table before everyone passes out from starvation.
Then poof! Plain, baked (read: boring) chicken appears. It’ll suffice, but we can do better.
How about throwing in some tangy artichokes and bright lemon zest, or roasted red peppers, feta and Parmesan? Forgo takeout and instead prepare a simple sauce made from things you probably already have in the kitchen for an Asian-inspired meal that you can eat in under 30 minutes.
A better bird is possible and with little more effort than that boring baked version requires. To get your creative juices flowing, here are three ideas that’ll make your winner, winner, chicken dinner just that.
First, Chicken with Lemon & Artichokes — in short, it’s divine. It is the opposite of heavy, yet wholly satisfying thanks to a light white wine sauce bursting with bright lemon zest and juice. Tangy artichokes are the sort of addition that instantly lifts a dish, and everything is better when baked under a crusty lid of Parmesan and panko breadcrumbs.
There’s an extra step with this one: pan-frying the chicken cutlets first before baking. Actually, you could skip this step and still arrive at the same result with just a little longer time in the oven.
And here’s another timesaver: Buy the thin-sliced chicken cutlets rather than cutting the chicken breasts yourself and then pounding them until thin. Unless you look forward to the stress relief that comes from beating up some protein — totally up to you.
Next up, Roasted Red Pepper Stuffed Chicken is the sort of meal that looks proper enough to save for company, but it’s actually easy to throw together on even the most hectic nights. Chicken breasts are sliced open and filled with a rich mixture of three cheeses (cream cheese, Parmesan and feta) plus jarred roasted red peppers.
Again, if you’re up for it, you can roast fresh red bell peppers in the oven or over your burner at high heat until charred; cover and let them sweat and cool a bit so you can peel them, and then proceed with dinner. But it’s 2019, and there are shortcuts for everything, so find a jar of roasted red peppers, chop them up and go on with your life.
That rich filling is the star here, so don’t be stingy with it. Use all of it, and any that you can’t stuff inside the chicken, just spoon over it before baking. It doesn’t matter where it ends up, you’ll be scooping up every spoonful, trust me. (I actually love the pieces of baked cheese that stick to the dish, but that’s just me.) I added some red pepper flakes for just a hint of heat, but you can leave them out if you prefer. Fresh herbs such as oregano and parsley would be lovely additions, too, and a quick side salad or sautéed fresh spinach would round out the meal.
Last but definitely not least, Honey Garlic Baked Chicken is one of those kitchen-sink recipes that use items everyone has: ketchup, soy sauce, honey, garlic and plain white vinegar.
As a general rule, I use skinless, boneless thighs whenever I’m cooking chicken. They’re still not as lean as breasts, but that’s why they taste so good — that extra little bit of fat means the meat remains moist and won’t dry out as quickly as the leaner parts. This sauce comes together in a matter of minutes, then it’s simply poured over the chicken before going in the oven. Or, to save time at night, put everything in your slow cooker in the morning and let it do its job while you’re gone.
It’s a little bit sweet and a little bit sticky, but not cloyingly so like the sauces you find at many restaurants. And this way, you can keep track of the sugar and the salt by going with low-sodium soy sauce, ketchup brands with low sodium and/or no sugar added, and even adjusting the honey amount to your liking.
My daughter loved this one the best, which was great, because it’s also the easiest to prepare. Serve it with white or fried rice or crisp stir-fried vegetables, and you won’t even miss the not-so-good-for-you restaurant options.
Chicken is a clean slate. It’s easy to downplay its versatility for the sake of time, but it shouldn’t be boring or keep you in the kitchen all night. Save that stress for the realization that it’s been a long time since fifth grade, and chemical properties and rock formations were never your strong suit anyway.