9.24.2013

Skillet Chicken

skillet chicken

My life has been changed. I'm a little happier in the evenings. I feel like the possibilities are endless. Don't worry this is not another story about this 6 month old that has also changed my life (but boy, do I love talking about her). 

It's a story about this skillet chicken and how I'm ready for you to take it in to your kitchen and be giddy at dinner time because you can easily make the best and most versatile chicken any home kitchen has ever seen. I was in a chicken rut big time. We have a charcoal grill so firing it up on a weeknight for two pieces of meat seemed exhausting. I've pan seared so many chicken breasts in olive oil that I could do it in my sleep. I love a good boneless skinless chicken breast, but was bored with any past preparations. Enter the skillet chicken! (Yes, I've officially arrived at the point).


Let's talk about the method and then I'll delve into all the ways I have worked it into dinner.

First, let's talk about the boneless skinless breast itself. They come in so many sizes these days... Sometimes I feel like they might have killed the hulk hogan of chickens by the size of the breast, but I try not dwell on the slaughtering of my dinner.
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Go ahead and slice off anything that doesn't look like straight meat.  The last thing I want when I'm biting into a piece of chicken is a tough piece or a little red spot.  Take off any white veins or red spots.
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If you get one of these honkers, we first want to slice it in half so that you have two thinner pieces of meat. skillet chicken1If your is just a little on the fat side, but not this thick, you can pound it just a little bit instead of slicing it in half.
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Next, slice it into strips. Depending on what you are using the chicken for, you might want chunks, but we are going for fajita meat tonight so strips it is.
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Now we are ready to marinate. You can choose your marinade, but the important thing is that you marinate it in something... anything... for at least 2 hours. We'll chat about my favorites at the end of this post.
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Next favorite part of this dish. All of that can be done ahead of time and when you are ready to cook, this will come together in less than five minutes.

Grab a skillet... Make that a good, cast iron skillet frying pan. I'm sure it can be done in a subsequent pan, but I believe there's a good sear and flavor that can only be found in the almighty frying pan. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the pan and heat for one to two minutes on high heat... or medium high heat if you have one of those new fancy stoves that might melt your pan if you are not careful.

This is where the canola oil is important because it has a high smoke point. Dainty olive oil will just not do it in this instance. I hear corn oil, peanut oil or grapeseed oil will also do the trick, but I can only swear by canola. Drain your chicken on a paper towel so that your chicken is not sitting in a pool or marinade and sprinkle with salt.
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It doesn't have to be completely dry, but this will help you get a good sear on the meat. Add chicken to the hot skillet in a single layer. Depending on how much you are cooking, you will probably have to work in batches, but resist the urge to cook all the meat in one batch... you want each piece to get a nice sear on it.  Be careful not to burn yourself because the oil might be crackling. Allow to cook without moving for about a minute. When you pieces start to look a little brown, flip them over and let sear one to two minutes on the other side.  I use tongs and try to get each piece flipped, working quickly because these thin pieces will cook quickly.
skillet chicken
Once seared on the second side, wrap in aluminum foil and allow to rest for five minutes.  Continue cooking the rest of your meat and add to the foil as each batch finishes.

A few notes about my process:
Slicing the chicken pre-marinade: Some recipes out the have you marinade the whole breast and cook it before slicing.  While it makes the process of searing each piece a little more fussy, I like that all sides of the slices were able to marinate giving you the most flavor possible.

Marinade: Let's talk marinades really quick, I'll be back this week with the full story on making fajita chicken for tacos and nachos, but if you are totally inspired to make skillet chicken right this very moment, here is the recipe...
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (I only add this if the end product has cilantro in it and I have it on hand)

My other favorite and very quick marinade is italian dressing.  Ken's Northern Lite Italian is my go to, but I'm not sure you can go wrong with any favorite you have.  When using Italian dressing, I will toss this chicken into quinoa and sauteed vegetables. Details coming soon too.

Well, it looks like I have left you here with a bunch of coming soon promises, but I wanted to talk method today.  If you get this down, I'm hopeful you will be just as pumped as I am to have this trick in your back pocket.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.

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