Updated: Apr 8
During this difficult and dire COVID- 19 threat, let’s admit it: diversifying the stayhome meals and being creative is getting more and more difficult for several obvious reasons.
We have to shop in a haste, knowing that the faster we are in and out of the store, the better. As a result, we have no time for new ingredients that would generate new ideas. If you are like me, I do take a shopping list whenever I go to the store in "normal" times, but that shopping list is not exhaustive. It purposefully leaves room for items that would randomly draw my attention and around which I would design a whole meal
– When I had my French bistro, I shopped at least once a week in person besides having my suppliers deliver the necessities because 1) I liked it and 2) I would always be on the lookout for some good ideas for my specials. Most restaurants’ specials are “revisited” leftovers such as Friday’s sole fillets turned into fish soup by Saturday. They come up with a fancy name (“bisque” instead of “soup”) and Voila! I did it the opposite way: I would choose something brand new such as fresh figs, poach them in red wine, and serve them on a bed of spinach sautéed for a few seconds with olive oil and lemon, topped with orecchiette, al-dente pasta, for example. I could not put the fresh figs on the shopping list because I never knew when they would be available on the market. Also, the season is very, very short. So, I was an opportune shopper.
To go back to the “boring” meals, we have been fixing lunch and dinner for days, and we are ready for something else.
Finally, we may have had “fun” the first few days of the quarantine life, venturing and experimenting with brand new recipes, but enough of that. The fun is over. It is time to make it simple.
Well, have you thought of chicken? Popular and lean, chicken is always a good choice, and, on top of that, it shines by its versatility. Not only does it taste good, but also, there are so many ways to prepare chicken, hot or cold.
One fantastic idea: get enough chicken breasts for three meals and cook them all in one batch. There is a way, a very simple way to cook chicken to perfection. Your chicken will be tender and moist if you can only spend a couple of minutes preparing it the right way:
1. Wash the meat under cold running water (Do not dry!),
2. Lay each chicken breast flat on a large enough dish,
3. Drizzle with olive oil (one tablespoon per breast), add salt and pepper, and a couple of tablespoons of water,
4. Cover, and cook at 350 degrees for slightly more than one hour (Chicken meat must reach a temperature of 185 degrees F to be thoroughly cooked)
5. If you don’t mind the trouble, turn the meat over after 30 minutes, add salt and pepper, and return to the oven. You will get a very nice, tender, moist chicken.
You may decide to use some of that delicious chicken the same night, with a side of brown, red, or black rice and some veggies (asparagus, broccoli, string beans, etc. – the options are almost endless).
You may also want to cut a few slices, soak them in the meat juice, and use them in a fantastic chicken sandwich for lunch. Delish!
Remember not to leave that precious chicken on the countertop. Refrigerate it, even if it is still warmish.
A few days later, you can heat up your chicken with a few spoons of its own juice and the rice, in the microwave oven, and slice a tomato, to which you will add a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and tadah! dinner is on the table!
Last but not least, and to really enjoy the leftovers of that chicken, you can fix a fabulous chicken salad - Shred or cut the chicken in small pieces, mix it with some light mayonnaise, mustard, some pieces of fresh orange, and fresh cilantro or parsley. This will be your best chicken salad ever – fresher, cheaper, tastier than the $12.00 chicken salad at most restaurants… which you cannot have now anywhere anyway!
And even when we have come out of this quarantine and this coronavirus crisis, we will remember the chicken, the great tasting chicken which, once cooked, would give us a couple of dinners, sandwiches and fantastic salads… what I call the best “planned-overs”. Economical, delicious, versatile and resourceful. What more can we ask for?
Interestingly, soups, hearty soups, thin soups, vegetable soups, and topping ideas for soups can also make easy-to-fix meals during this quarantine lifestyle. Worth the try!
And finally, when you are done cooking, remember the few little pleasures in life, reachable and manageable from the comfort of your home!