Saturday, November 6, 2010

Just Chicken

I enjoy chicken dishes, but I hate to cut and handle raw chicken. Gross. Recently I discovered a couple of tricks for cooking it that are a) relatively mess-free; b) super-duper easy; and c) produce jaw-droppingly tender chicken that falls apart when you touch it.

So... Tip One: freeze your chicken, and only thaw it enough to get a sharp knife through it. It's so much easier to handle this way, and considerly less slimy. (Though I will admit that your hands get pretty cold by the time you're finished!)

Tip Two: Cook that sucker in the crock pot! I have a 3-qt pot that will hold about 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (cut up in big chunks). I drop it in the cooker just before bed. In the morning, it's nice and tender, and I pull out the chicken to cool just to the point that I can handle it without burning my fingers, and shred it in a large bowl. This will produce enough shredded meat for 3-4 recipes, or it will make burritos for a crowd of 20 or so. You always want some kind of liquid, but there doesn't have to be a lot of it, either.

Here are a few options for seasonings and liquids. For each one, cut the chicken in big chunks, mix up into the liquid, and cook on low for about 8 hours:

Spicy Chicken
1 jar salsa, your choice
1/2 c. chicken broth or water
chili powder to taste
(You can reserve the liquid if you want, or you can chunk it. I use about a cup and mix it back into the shredded chicken if I am using it for burritos or tacos.)

Generic Chicken (suitable for most any recipe)
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
pepper to taste
pinch garlic powder
salt, optional
(This makes delicious broth. Strain out the gook that floats to the top and save it for a later recipe.)

Italian Chicken
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. crushed rosemary
1 bay leaf
black pepper to taste
(Another good one for broth, but make sure you use it in a dish it will complement)

FYI: one boneless skinless chicken breast will shred into about 3/4 cup of meat.

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