One of my goals for the summer is to learn how to cook healthy and cook fast. The cook healthy part is fairly easy–stick to simple, pronounceable ingredients and don’t use too much of them. The fast part–now that’s tricky.
Especially protein. I haven’t had much experience cooking meat until now. When I cooked at home, I made pies. Cookies. Occasionally tuna salad. But I didn’t cook meat. Mostly because I was afraid of doing it wrong and wasting good food, but now I figure if I don’t try, I’ll never learn. If it’s not bleeding or blackened, it’s edible.
But I don’t have much time for slow cookers. First off, I don’t own a slow cooker. I have two frying pans, two saucepans, two pots, two skillets, a lot of little baking dishes, and a muffin tin. Everything I cook needs to be cooked on the stove. And quickly. Once school starts, time will be of the essence. Sure, I’ll be able to do a lot of meals in the dining common, but for the meals I won’t get to stick around campus for, I’ll still want to eat good food.
So I figured out a formula for fast and tasty chicken that you can stick anywhere–on top of salad, rice, next to a baked potato, mixed in with noodles–anywhere at all. Notice I did not say “recipe.” Recipes involve precise measurements. Measurements work very well for architects and seamstresses, but this is food we’re talking about, here. I am not an architect or a seamstress. I am a starving artist graduate student who prefers things…”to taste.”
Also, I am my mother’s daughter and my grandmother’s granddaughter. They never measure anything, and their food is amazing.
For my fellow wanderers, here is my flexible formula for yummy and hasty chicken:
You’ll need a…
- Non-stick frying pan
- A non-metal spatula
- Thawed chicken cut into strips (or chunks or cubes or whatever you have the patience for)
- (As far as quantity goes, don’t heap the pan full of chicken. There should be enough to have all the pieces spread out in one layer in the pan and not stacked on top of each other.)
- 1-2 tablespoons of an oil or oils of your choice. For example, you could use a tablespoon of olive oil, combine vegetable oil and sesame oil, have or a tablespoon of olive oil plus a tablespoon of coconut oil (tried that tonight–it was delish).
- 2 powdered seasonings. For example, onion and garlic powder. A teaspoon-ish each. Again, to taste.
- 1 ground leaf seasoning, about a teaspoon. For example, basil leaves or oregano.
- Optional: chopped vegetable. Half an onion. A bell pepper. Zucchini. Whatever your soul desireth.
Heat the oils in the pan (on the stovetop–don’t stick the thing in the oven, boys) at maximum heat until they bubble or ripple. You do not, repeat NOT, want to see smoke. If you do, find the fire extinguisher, follow the instructions, then start over.
Add the chicken. Take the spatula and push it around. Listen to that satisfying popping sound as the heated oils do their thing. Turn on the overhead oven fan. Just do.
You’ll notice the chicken starts to turn a frothy white. Add the spices. I just sort of sprinkle them generously. I like to keep my measuring spoons clean. If you wanted vegetables, toss those in now, too.
Continue pushing the chicken around, flipping it over occasionally to make sure the pieces get brown on all sides. You should notice less and less pink and more and more white and brown. The goal is to get rid of all the pink. Pink means food poisoning and a trip to the ER. No pink.
Toss on that leafy seasoning. Pretend you’re Julia Child. Or Emeril. Whoever you prefer.
When all the pink is gone (7-8 minutes of pushing around later), the chicken is done, and you have made yummy food. Hooray!
Now you can eat the chicken. Or put it in plastic wrap and a freezer bag and freeze it for later. Or stick it in Tupperware and refrigerate for tomorrow’s lunch.
It’s your chicken. You can fry if you want to.