Pillbox

A poultry profile: chicken, made three ways

To truly take your chicken parm to the next level, put it in the oven on broil for just a few minutes right before you serve it. The cheese will form a delicious, bubbly top and make your mouth water. (credit: Laura Scherb/Operations Manager) To truly take your chicken parm to the next level, put it in the oven on broil for just a few minutes right before you serve it. The cheese will form a delicious, bubbly top and make your mouth water. (credit: Laura Scherb/Operations Manager) A nice, thick chicken breast will make for a beautiful dinner, but be careful to check that it's done all the way through before you take it out of the oven. The only thing less impressive than take-out is undercooked poultry and the subsequent salmonella. (credit: Laura Scherb/Operations Manager) A nice, thick chicken breast will make for a beautiful dinner, but be careful to check that it's done all the way through before you take it out of the oven. The only thing less impressive than take-out is undercooked poultry and the subsequent salmonella. (credit: Laura Scherb/Operations Manager)

Chicken is cheap. Chicken is delicious. It goes with almost everything; it can be fancy or no-frills; and generally, it’s pretty hard to mess up. Here are three levels of chicken: easy, less easy, and Jamie Oliver.

Easy: Chicken Parmesan

It’s a classic date night dish for a reason, okay? And one of those reasons happens to be that it’s easy as pie to make. The ingredients are truly simple and fairly inexpensive, but there are levels here, people. You can choose just to buy spaghetti sauce and pre-seasoned breadcrumbs or you can go hardcore and really, truly make it from scratch. It’s a personal choice. No judgment here.

Chicken breasts (try to buy the tenders at the store, but if the tenders aren’t there, you can just slice bigger breasts in half)
Flour
Breadcrumbs (pre-seasoned or homemade)
2 eggs, beaten in a bowl
One jar of spaghetti sauce (or your own gourmet version)
Olive oil
Slices of Parmesan cheese (or fresh mozzarella, which is my personal preference)
Salt, pepper, red pepper, and Italian seasoning
Spaghetti, cooked and drained

1) Start by heating the olive oil in a pan. Let it warm up while you work. Save time, eat better.
2) Get out two small plates and one shallow bowl. On the plates, pour about one-third cup each of flour and breadcrumbs. In the bowl, crack and beat the eggs.
3) Use a fork to grab one of the pieces of chicken. First, coat it in flour, then dip it in the egg, and finally coat it in breadcrumbs. I swear this is the hardest part. Repeat until all of the chicken is breaded, and then put it into the pan, where it’s going to cook quickly. Use a fork to turn it over so the breading cooks evenly. When the fork goes through the meat easily, it’s probably cooked. But! Because it’s chicken and can give you some nasty diseases if you eat it raw, make sure to cut at least one piece open and make sure that the meat is white all the way through — no pink spots and no pink juices. Season generously.
4) When the chicken is cooked through, pour the spaghetti sauce on top. It should mix with the extra olive oil and start bubbling. Reduce the temperature and let everything stew for a bit.
5) Put the slices of cheese on top of the chicken and sauce, then cover the pan and watch for the cheese to melt. If you’re cooking for a date or just feel like being fancy, pop that pan into the oven and broil it for five minutes tops to get a nice crust on the cheese. Add some more Italian seasoning for aesthetic quality, and serve on top of a mountain of pasta. Mamma mia.

Less Easy: Chicken Aglio e Olio

While this recipe isn’t dreadfully difficult, it’s a step up from your basic chicken parm. There’s a definite level of sophistication in figuring out how to time all of this so your pasta isn’t overcooked, your spices are just right, and everything is mixed in. I would recommend grilling the chicken that you plan to use, as it adds a nice smoky flavor that complements the garlic well. Alternatively, just lightly cook it in some oil in a hot pan. Good luck, soldier.

Chicken breasts, grilled and sliced (do ahead of time)
Fettuccini noodles
1 cube of chicken bullion
Large bunch of fresh parsley
5-6 cloves of garlic
Portabella mushrooms, sliced
Plenty of olive oil
Salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano
1) Start by cooking the pasta. Fact: most pasta takes about 12 to 13 minutes to soften to the perfect al dente. For this recipe, take it off of the stove at eight minutes, and drain all but two cups of the pasta water from the pan. Dissolve the chicken bullion in the remaining water. (I recommend in a glass measuring cup so you don’t burn/melt yourself/your Tupperware) Then turn the heat way down and let it simmer.
2) While the pasta is cooking, you can be prepping other ingredients. If you tell your friends/families/girlfriend/boyfriend this, it will make you sound like a MasterChef. True story.
3) The chicken should definitely be grilled by now, so slice the breasts into long, thin slices. Set aside.
4) Peel the cloves of garlic and slice them into thin slivers. Set aside.
5) Clean your mushrooms (wash them well!), and then slice them into bite-sized pieces, depending on how big your mouth is. Set aside. (Are you running out of room in your kitchen yet?)
6) Take the bunch of parsley and chop the stems off. Throw them away, then go back to chopping away at the leaves, which, by this point, will smell amazing. Keep chopping until the knife stops making crunching sounds — this means that the leaves are all smaller, more edible sizes now.
7) Okay. Now that everything is prepped and cooked, it’s time to get ready to roll. Everything is about to happen in record speed, so pay attention and have at it. Godspeed.
8) Pour a generous glug or two of olive oil into a pan and heat it. You’ll know it’s hot enough to move on when you flick water into the oil and it freaks out and splutters all over the place.
9) When the oil is heated, add the peppercorns, red pepper, oregano, and garlic. Let all of those sizzle for a few minutes but not too long. Burned spices are the opposite of fun. Throw the mushrooms in. Then, when those start to cook down (you can tell because they’ll be softer, smaller, and releasing juices), add the parsley.
10) By this time, you’ll have your pasta done and simmering. When you’re ready, pour the noodles and any remaining liquid in that pot into the pan you’re using. You might need to add more olive oil at this point to keep everything nice and coated.
11) Stir that around for a few minutes to let the flavors mingle (I use tongs so I can boss that pasta around) and then add the chicken.
12) Serve it up with some fresh parsley on top, and make sure everyone gets equal portions of pasta, mushrooms, and chicken. No one likes a biased chef.

Jamie Oliver: Super Fancy Stuffed Chicken

Poultry goes posh. Time to get real, people. This recipe is adapted from Jaime Oliver, and if you don’t know him, you should. He’s an adorable British chef with a fantastic YouTube channel and, clearly, a way with chicken. This recipe is not for the faint of heart. You have no place in level three super-fancy-stuffed-chicken-world if you’re not okay with pounding a chicken to make it thinner. Just saying.

Chicken breasts
18 oz. of portabella mushrooms diced into nice, small cubes
1 bunch of parsley (again)
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
2 cups of white wine
1 cup of Dijon mustard

1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
2) To prepare your chicken breasts to be stuffed, you have to do a little work. This is all worth it, I promise. But don’t get squeamish on me, okay? Take a knife and, with the thinner end of the breast facing away from you, slice a vertical opening into the breast all the way. Make sure it’s deep enough to hold your filling but not so deep that it punctures the other side of the meat. You should be able to slide your fingers in but not see them poke through. Got that? Woo. Okay. Set your sliced chicken aside, and prep the stuffing.
3) Drizzle a generous serving of olive oil into a pan over medium to high heat and then add the mushrooms. Season the mushrooms to taste, then add the parsley. Let it all cook together, then, when the mushroom juices are released, set it aside to cool.
4) While you’re waiting for it to cool, get a casserole dish or a baking pan for the oven and cover it with tinfoil for cooking your chicken.
5) Here comes the stuffing part: take the cooled mushrooms and parsley and jam it into the hole that you made in the chicken breasts. If it doesn’t completely close all the way, that’s okay. A little overflow never hurt anyone.
6) Put the chicken in a pan, and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you poke the chicken with a fork. You may want to cut into it with a knife just to make sure it’s done. Everyone’s oven is unique.
7) While the chicken is cooking, make the sauce. You can just use the same pan from before to save time on dishes. It’s all going to the same place, right?
8) Sauté the garlic in olive oil and add salt and pepper. Don’t let it burn!
9) Add the white wine, and bring it to a boil. Let it cook for a while to reduce the alcohol. When the mixture has reduced to about two-thirds of its original volume, add the mustard and whisk the wine into the mustard.
10) Let it cook for a few minutes, but not too long, because then your sauce will be thick and lumpy.
11) When your chicken and sauce are done, serve the chicken drizzled with the sauce and watch as mouths all around you drool, drop, and devour.
This recipe was inspired in parts by www.jaimeoliver.com and www.cookingwithcaitlin.com.

General Chicken Tips

Chicken isn’t high-grade salmon. This is a protein that needs to be cooked through and thoroughly checked to ensure that it’s not pink in the middle — because, you know, diseases and stuff.

Don’t let that scare you off though — chicken is my favorite thing to cook because there’s so much you can do with it. These are only three recipes of literally millions that you can find online or in your favorite cookbook.

Go crazy, and, as the Chick-Fil-A cows say: “Eat mor chikin”.