Last Updated on February 3, 2023 by Maria Kennedy
Chicken is a great and versatile protein. It’s not tough, it doesn’t have too many icky bits that need to be taken out (depending on your butcher), and it’s low in fat. This makes it both a delicious base for all kinds of dishes, but also very healthy! It’s like the Jackpot Capital bonus of main courses!
Now, chicken might be great for making dishes with, but it does have a few… challenges. For one, the white meat of the chicken is low in fat. “But wait!” You cry out to me in exasperation, “You just said that was a good thing!”
Ah, enthusiastic reader, that is indeed true. However, just like most things in life, every coin has another side, and every good thing has its downsides. Not being a super fatty piece of meat might make it have fewer calories and be a bit on the healthier side, but it also means the white meat of the chicken can become dried out.
Chicken also just doesn’t have that meaty beefy flavor that, well, beef does. Cuts of cow meat are full of juicy and delicious fats and proteins. Some steaks you can get away with just salting and searing them and they will still come out great! Of course, putting in a bit more is always nice, but I digress.
Chicken is a whole different story. Anyone who has tasted chicken will know it is rather bland by itself. Even with salt, there just isn’t much flavor there to boost up. So, you will just end up with a salty piece of bland protein if you don’t season your chicken well.
Now, without further ado, let’s get into some great and easy chicken dishes anyone can make easily at home. The goal is to make easy and delicious meals to keep us away from processed and fast foods!
One last thing I want to touch on before we get started is marinating. Marination, in simple terms, is a process of soaking food in spices, salt, and other flavor agents in order to impregnate the desired food with those flavorings.
Whether or not marinading does anything is a topic of debate amongst the cooking community, but the simple answer is, “probably?” At the end of the day, it doesn’t really take much extra effort, and it could improve the flavor of the dish.
So, I will say this: if you have no reason not to, just mix up the dish and let it marinate in its spices overnight. If not, don’t worry about it. Chicken is usually thin enough that it doesn’t matter too much, so don’t go out of your way. But, where marinading can be done, I’ll mention it in the recipes.
Stir-frying is a really easy way to make a quick and flavorful meal. It also has the added benefit of not needing more than a handful of dishes; a wok or frying pan, a cutting board, a knife, and something to stir what you are frying.
First things first are to deal with your veggies. By dealing with all of your vegetables first, you won’t have to wash your cutting board twice. Now, instead of having to wash it once after using it on the chicken and once after the veggies, you will wash it after the chicken at the end.
My picks are going to be one kind of starchy vegetable, one kind of onion, garlic, a kind of bean or lentil, and bean sprouts. However you can pick and choose whatever kinds of vegetables you like, these are just some of my picks.
When stir-frying, it’s important to keep in mind the order that you are putting your ingredients in. Some things will take time to cook, and other things will take less time! For instance, carrots and potatoes will take a while to become soft, so they should be put in first. In contrast, garlic burns easily and should be put in last, or close to the end.
Stir-frying is a quick process. This means you are going to want to have all of your ingredients ready before you start. This should consist of, more or less, three main components:
- A protein
- Vegetables of choice
- A carbohydrate
Our protein is going to be chicken. Vegetables, as I have mentioned, can be adjusted to your tastes. Stir-frying is easy enough that you can try it many times in small portions to taste to find the right recipe for you.
Back to the cooking. As I mentioned above there will also be a carbohydrate in this dish. It can be anything from rice to noodles to pasta. It is all about personal preference.
Now that we have the main parts of the dish aside, let’s talk about some flavor agents before moving on to how to actually put the dish together.
Classic flavors in a stir-fry are going to be Asian spices and flavors. Soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, curry, garlic, onion, chile pastes, and all sorts of other stuff you can find at your grocery store. Don’t be shy to add in some MSG for a boost of umami.
One final element that is really important is the starch slurry. This is what will give your stir fry sauce its thick and silky consistency. This can be made by mixing either potato starch or cornstarch with some water. I will soon explain how to use this.
Now, assembly time. Get all of your ingredients chopped and ready for you by the stove. Mix up your starch with a bit of water. It should be runnier than oobleck, we don’t want it hardening on you when you try to pour it.
If you wanted to marinate your chicken, you can do that the night before you actually want to cook (or even earlier). But, there will be so many flavors, and the chicken should be in small enough pieces that the difference will be negligible.
Start your pan heating up on the stove. Next, once it starts to get hot pour in your oil of choice. Olive oil is the healthiest option I know that is safe for the hot temperatures of frying like this, but you can use your oil of choice.
Once the oil is shimmering, at about 400F, add in your slowest cooking ingredients. This will be your carrots or potatoes, or any other hardy or tough veggie. Along with them should go your diced-up onion.
Let these cook until the carrots or potatoes are basically done, the rest of the dish will go by in a flash. Speaking of the rest of the dish, in goes the chicken (and precooked beans or lentils if so desired), you wanna let that start to brown, and add in your aromatics and spices. Garlic and ginger are good options along with curry powder.
Next, you will throw in your carbohydrates. This will be either noodles or rice, along with bean sprouts if you like them. They are a great way to boost up the dish’s volume while keeping it healthy.
Finally, is the sauce. Look around online for a recipe or get a premade sauce from the store, but any Asian-style sauce you like will work. Just note that store-bought sauces have pretty much everything you need in them, so you won’t need to add the starch slurry. (Same goes if your sauce recipe calls for starch.)
Stir stir stir, and let all those ingredients cook and get to know each other. Once everything looks done, it will be done. The pieces should be small enough that once the chicken is done on the outside, it is basically done on the inside.
After that, pull it out! Plate it up and add some chopped roasted peanuts on top and you got a delicious stir fry dinner in less than 20 Minutes!