Friday, October 28, 2005

A freezer full of chicken

I'm going through a food aversion right now that I really hope is temporary, because boneless & skinless chicken breasts are pretty much my protein staple -- simple, quick to prepare, and relatively inexpensive, to say nothing of generally healthy (ignoring the steroids they feed them, the filthy conditions in which they're kept, and that pesky little influenza thing running around now ... but then, that's sort of situation normal for any non-organic meat, and I'm thinking the organic stuff will only become affordable for me once I make full professor. It's best not to think of it).

I'm wondering if I've just reached boneless-skinless-chicken-breast critical mass. This sort of thing has happened before -- it happened, for example, with pasta. Like every single other person who has ever had occasion to move out of his parents' house, I pretty much lived on pasta for a few years, until it finally got so that I could barely look at it any more. I still eat it on occasion, but only if it's a special recipe and really good, and I hardly ever eat it in restaurants any more.

So perhaps this is my issue. One of the problems of course is that, as far as protein sources go, boneless/skinless chicken breasts are about the blandest of meats in existence -- they're really only a few rungs above tofu. The trick is finding ways to dress them up. And I think I'm at the end of my rope. The following are my standard tricks:

  1. Marinate in basalmic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Sear in an extremely hot cast iron skillet, then continue to cook in a 400 degree oven until done. This version is particularly good when shredded and served as part of a salad.
  2. Cut into nuggets or strips, dust with flour, and cook in a skillet or wok until golden. Drizzle on soy sauce, cook until soy has carmelized on chicken.
  3. Same procedure as above, except instead of the soy sauce, toss in a mixture of equal portions ketchup, Frank's Red Hot, and red wine vinegar. Sort of like boneless wings.
  4. Fried, for when you say to hell with the arteries, and don't mind the extra work: dust with flour, dip in egg wash, and battered (beer, flour, whipped egg whites).
  5. Crispy chicken fingers: flour, egg wash, then roll in pulverized nachos (blue corn, preferably).
And then I have a few others not as interesting or involved for when you simply can't be bothered, which I won't enumerate. Suffice it to say, I've had my fill of boneless-skinless-chicken-breasts.

The problem is, they're such a staple that of course I always make a point of buying a mega-package of them whenever I do a serious food shopping trip, which I then freeze and slowly deplete over about two weeks. Except in the last week or so, I've been eating anything but ... all exacerbated by the fact that any produce I buy here has a shelf life of about 48 hours. Which is to say, any veggies I buy on monday, if they're not eaten by wednesday, they're liquid. So I tend to make a lot of food runs on my way home from work, stopping off to pick up salad makings.

Of course, me being me, I'm never quite (a) awake enough or (b) organized enough to take one of said chicken breasts out of the freezer in the morning to thaw before leaving in the morning. I do have an ingenious and quick method of thawing which involves ziploc bags and warm water, but lately I'm too exhausted and hungry at the end of the day to wait even that long. So I usually end up grabbing an unfrozen chicken breast at the grocery store, along with my vegetables ... and then, I'll spot something that would be ever so much better and more interesting to eat that tasteless-boneless-skinless-chicken breasts.

The result is that I cook something not-chicken-breast, and toss the new chicken breasts in the freezer. It's getting kind of crowded in there.

So while filling my freezer with sadly neglected chicken breasts this past week and a half or so, I have instead eaten:

  1. perogies
  2. pizza
  3. ribs
  4. refried-bean burritos
  5. chicken wings (yes, it's really just the boneless-skinless breasts I'm bored of)
  6. steak
  7. cheese and crackers
  8. soup
  9. an omelette
I do want to point out that, while this partially reads like a list of instant frozen food or take-out, only the perogies and the pizza fit that category. I was particularly pleased with the chicken wings -- I've figured out an ideal recipe that avoids the necessity of frying them. More on that in a future post.

Still, not the healthiest round-up. Maybe it's time to explore tofu.

No, strike that. That's when I know I'm ready for the soylent-green world.

And for Eano (and Paige now, too): "Work is the curse of the drinking classes." Amen.


alex said...

if you get really brave, you could always try that "hufu" tofu they were talking about on jon stewart this week..

the healthy human flesh alternative?


Lesley said...

Buy a George Foreman Grill. And then you won't have to worry about the chicken being frozen or not. It takes about 10 minutes to cook it. You just pop it in the microwave for about five mins (possibly less) and then pop it on the grill. And even better, mix a little of that Veggie Seasoning with Balsamic Vinegar before you pop it on the grill. If you are game, grill some zuchinni beforehand and then eat them together.

Or there's stir fry.

Or there's greek salad.

Or there's plain chicken salad on toast with lettuce.

Trust me, I lived on Chicken Breasts for about six months.