My wife has left me (for the week) and I’m a bachelor once more. (Technically, I have been for the better part of 2 months, what with travel and all. But we’ll avoid that fact for the purposes of comic relief.) She’s taken my son and left me with two needy dachshunds. Needy in that they need to be fed daily. How’s a man supposed to handle the stress?!
Anyways, I was writing for some advice. See, I have these chicken filets that have been sitting in my freezer for God knows how long (3 days). I know I should probably eat them at some point, but I’m culinarily-challenged. I was told eating it straight out of the freezer probably isn’t the wisest choice, but I can burn water putting it on the stove. Any suggestions for a kitchen neophyte?
Utterly Lost Without A Female Around To Keep Him Fed And Showered
Dear Utterly Lost –
As a gamer, you’re more than capable of reading up and doing a bit of research on your class. Cooking is not that much different, it’s all about following a basic rotation! Granted, you’re probably not wanting a really fancy recipe that involves deboning a whole chicken, stuffing, and roasting it, but chicken breast fillets are easy to cook and quite delicious.
Also, I emailed you back, and you mentioned that you’re comfortable with a grill, but unsure about this whole “oven” thing. As such, we’ll cover both the vanilla recipe and a heroic version.
1. Defrost the chicken - either in the fridge (for probably 24 hours if they’re in a package from the grocery) or sealed in plastic under cool running water. The latter is faster, but requires more babysitting. If you choose the fridge, place the chicken package ON A PLATE, and keep it at the bottom shelf of your fridge. Chicken Juice + Anything Else = BAD. You want to avoid cross contamination, if you will.
2. Turn on the oven to 400F, and let it heat until the little “I’m heating up” light turns off, or it beeps and says OVEN READY or whatever your oven does.
3. Get out salt, pepper, and spices that you find tasty. For this recipe, look for a bottle of Italian Seasoning (usually a mixture of spices like Basil and Oregano) and a bottle of Garlic Powder. If all you can find is Garlic SALT, do not add other salt to the chicken.
4. Get out a large baking pan (I like a 9×13” glass pyrex dish, but anything with sides will work) and line it with aluminum foil. Put a little bit of olive oil in the bottom and spread it around, or spray with nonstick spray. Spray carefully, so that you do not accidentally get non-stick spray onto your floor. Trust me.
5. Carefully arrange the chicken breast fillets in the pan so that they are in one layer, and not too smushed up against each other.
6. WASH YOUR CHICKENY FINGERS. Warm water. Soap. Salmonella is full of fail, and you don’t want it (nor do you want to give it to your family, or have it growing on your spice containers).
7. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and the seasonings. If you’re worried, go easy – you want to lightly dust them, not dump so much garlic powder on them that your coworkers will smell you coming tomorrow.
8. Put the pan in the hot oven for about 30 minutes. Use a timer. Use a NOISY timer.
9. After 30 minutes, check the chicken to see if it is done. If you have an instant read thermometer (See – cooking is appropriately geeky, you get to use cool gizmos), you want it to read 165F. If you don’t have such a device, carefully remove one of the chicken fillets and cut it in half through the thickest part. If the juices are clear, you’re good to go. If they’re still pink, back in the cooker they go, for another 5-10 minutes at a time.
You can, at this point, enjoy your chicken just like this. I suggest eating it with a vegetable or a delicious salad and some vinaigrette… or Ranch Dressing, if that’s how you roll. Also, once you remove the chicken from the pan, the aluminum foil can be tossed in the trash, and you don’t have a pan to soak and wash.
You can also vary this recipe by using different spices – cumin and chili powder will get you a “southwestern style” chicken, for example. Basically any spices will work here!
If you’re looking to try a HEROIC version, you can do the following:
Take some tomato sauce and spread it over the chicken, right there in the pan where it already is. (The plain tomato sauce in a can is fine, add a little bit of that Italian Seasoning and give it a stir before you add it to the chicken) On top of each chicken fillet (that is now covered with a spoonful or two of tomato sauce) add a slice of mozzarella cheese – or a handful of the pre-shredded stuff in a bag. At this point, you can add a few pieces of pepperoni to each chicken breast if you like.
Now put the whole thing back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is all melty and delicious. (Use your eyeballs. Look at the cheese. Is it melty and delicious after 10 minutes? No? Then set your timer for another 5 minutes and check back! If the cheese is getting toasty brown in spots, it’s /definitely/ done.)
Yes, I’ve just given you a recipe for Pizza Chicken. Enjoy, and try not to burn the roof of your mouth on the molten cheese.
Let me know how this turns out – hopefully you end up with a delicious and satisfying dinner! (If not, well, you’re home alone, and nobody ever has to know but you!) Just make sure to use a timer that you’ll hear, because while melty and delicious is good, blackened and smoking is not.
As with things in WoW, you don’t want your dinner standing in fire either.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 slices mozzarella cheese (or 4 handfuls of pre-shredded)
1 cup tomato sauce
salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian seasoning blend
pizza toppings (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil and spray lightly with non-stick spray. Arrange chicken so that it is not touching/smushed up. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, italian seasoning. Bake for 30 minutes or until juices run clear. Place 1/4c tomato sauce on each chicken breast, top with 1 slice mozzarella cheese, and a light sprinkling of other pizza toppings. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melty and delicious.
Makes 4 servings, and can be adjusted to serve more or fewer people relatively easily.
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