I suspect that most families (those who aren’t vegetarian, anyway) opt for chicken at least twice a week. We often fall into the chicken rut because my husband doesn’t like fish and is allergic to shellfish, and I don’t like to eat pork or beef. So when we eat at home, we eat eggs, vegetarian dishes and chicken. I get my seafood and he gets his steak on the outside.
I probably don’t need to tell you that chicken every other night can get boring fast. Not too long ago, I could barely face the prospect of eating chicken again. When we get bored, we tend to go out to eat, which is not healthy for the wallet or the waistline. So I had to find some way to jazz up plain old chicken while still getting dinner on the table in a half-hour or so.
I mined my cookbooks for ideas for quick chicken dishes that I could easily vary from week to week. Here are five very simple chicken dishes I found that were a hit with everyone else at the table. All of these recipes make use of that staple of weeknight cooking: boneless chicken breasts. If you find yourself getting bored, try varying the seasoning or vegetables to create entirely new dishes.
Honey baked chicken: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix ½ cup honey, ¼ cup mustard and 1 tablespoon seasoning mix of your choice. Lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray and arrange 6 boneless chicken breasts in the dish. Brush both sides of the chicken with the honey-mustard mixture and bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes. This homey meal goes great with a big salad and baked or mashed potatoes. Slice leftover chicken breasts for sandwiches.
Cheesy chicken: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 minced garlic clove, salt and a dash of cayenne to taste. Toss 4 boneless chicken breasts in this mixture and place them in a baking dish lined with foil. Toss each breast with a mixture of diced bell pepper, onion and tomatoes. Roast until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Top each chicken breast with shredded colby-jack cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is melted. Serve with plain rice for a full meal.
Braised chicken: In a large skillet over medium, add 2 cups chicken stock, 2 sliced onions and 2 tablespoons butter. Simmer uncovered until the onions are tender and the liquid is reduced, about 10 minutes. Season 4 chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and place them on top of the onions. Place a couple of rosemary sprigs on top. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and onions to a platter, raise the heat, and add 2 more tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Bring to a boil and pour the sauce over the chicken to serve. This dish goes well with a green salad and French bread.
Chicken tacos: Poach the chicken in barely simmering water until cooked through. Let cool and then shred (or substitute ground chicken). Season the chicken with taco seasoning mix, and warm with jarred salsa for a few minutes. Wrap soft tortillas in foil and warm them in a low oven. Let everyone fix their own tacos with plenty of shredded lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, onions, sour cream and guacamole for fixings.
Grilled chicken and bacon: For this recipe, you need a hinged grill basket. Season boneless chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and place sliced onions on top. Wrap each chicken breast with 2 slices of bacon and place in the grill basket. Close the basket and grill, turning once or twice, until the chicken is cooked through and the bacon is crispy, 10-12 minutes. Serve with a big dish of grilled vegetables and some crusty bread.