Saturday, July 13, 2024

Three Days In The Life Of Four Chicken Breasts

In an attempt to eat more lean protein and save a little time with dinner prep (and keep the house a little cooler on these hot summer days), I grilled a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts -- enough for several meals for the two of us. It's a time saver and if you get a little creative, you can enjoy them in many different ways with very little fuss. My daughter made something similar when I last visited her in London earlier this year, serving them in taco shells with all the trimmings. By themselves, chicken breasts can be rather boring, especially if they're not seasoned properly. To make them more interesting, I used a dry rub of my homemade seasoned salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder and herbs de Provence. Feel free to use whatever floats your boat -- oregano, thyme, and/or zatar would work too. I let them sit in the refrigerator like that for about an hour, then squeezed some fresh lemon juice over them and let them sit another 15 minutes. Before grilling, I drizzled with a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking to the grill. They're easy to overcook, leaving them dry and hard, so be sure to have the grill heated for a while to make sure it's hot enough to get a sear on the chicken breasts quickly. Keep an eye on them and turn them after about seven or eight minutes. They should only take about 15 minutes total to cook, less if they're not as thick as mine were. You can serve them as is, or top with some chopped tomatoes or mango salsa (mince some mango, add some green pepper, tomato, cilantro and a squirt of lime)

 But there was still plenty leftover and the weather was hot, so the next day, I sliced some of the chicken and served it cold over an abundant salad, with potato salad, tomatoes, cucumbers and green beans, shown in the first photo.

 We didn't want chicken three nights in a row, and kept the leftover breast in the refrigerator for another day. The following night, for the third iteration, I sliced some onions and a red pepper in olive oil and saute├Ęd them until cooked through, then added the rest of the grilled and sliced chicken, seasoning with salt, pepper and parsley.

At this point, you could eat as is, or with rice or noodles, but I was feeling creative and wanted to make some pita bread to serve with the chicken mixture. The pita were fun to make and seeing them puff up in the oven was gratifying, although I have to admit, most of them didn't puff up so dramatically as this one.

The majority of them looked like this, which was fine, because if you had tried to place the chicken, peppers and onions inside one that had a "pocket," it would have been too thin to hold all the juices.

The pita folds on itself to make just the right "container" for a great sandwich lunch or dinner. Add some lettuce and salsa for more interest. We liked the chicken trifecta well enough that  I'm planning to make it part of my repertoire -- not on a weekly basis perhaps, but a couple of times a month. 

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

For the pita bread, I used this recipe I found on The Mediterranean Dish:

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided 
  • 1 to 2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil  (more for the bowl)

  1. Make sponge: In a large mixing bowl add the lukewarm water and stir in yeast and sugar until dissolved. Add 1/2 cup flour and whisk together. Place the mixing bowl in a warm place, uncovered to form a lose sponge. Give it 15 minutes or so, the mixture should bubble.
  2. Form the pita dough: Now add salt, olive oil and almost all the remaining flour (keep about 1/2 cup of the flour for dusting later). Stir until mixture forms a shaggy mass (at this point, the dough has little to no gluten development and just looks like a sticky mess and you can easily pull bits off). Dust with a little flour, then knead the mixture inside the bowl for about a minute to incorporate any stray bits.
  3. Knead the dough: Dust a clean working surface with just a little bit of flour. Knead lightly for a couple minutes or so until smooth. Cover and let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then knead again for a couple more minutes. The dough should be a little bit moist, you can help it with a little dusting of flour, but be careful not to add too much flour.
  4. Let the dough rise. Clean the mixing bowl and coat it lightly with extra virgin olive oil and put the dough back in the bowl. Turn the dough a couple times in the bowl to coat with the olive oil. Cover the mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap then lay a kitchen towel over. Put the bowl in a warm place. Leave it alone for 1 hour or until the dough rises to double its size.
  5. Divide the dough. Deflate the dough and place it on a clean work surface. Divide the dough into 7 to 8 equal pieces and shape them into balls. Cover with a towel and leave them for 10 minutes or so to rest.
  6. Shape the pitas. Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the pieces into a circle that's 8-9 inches wide and about a quarter inch thick. It helps to lift and turn the dough frequently as you roll so that dough doesn't stick to your counter too much. (If dough starts to stick, sprinkle a tiny bit of flour). If the dough starts to spring back, set it aside to rest for a few minutes, then continue rolling. Repeat with the other pieces of dough. (Once you get going, you can be cooking one pita while rolling another, if you like). You have two options for baking the pita from here.
  7. To bake pita in the oven: Heat the oven to 475 degrees F and place a heavy-duty baking pan or large cast iron skillet on the middle rack to heat. Working in batches, place the rolled-out pitas directly on the hot baking baking sheet (I was only able to fit 2 at a time). Bake for 2 minutes on one side, and then, using a pair of tongs, carefully turn pita over to bake for 1 minute on the other side.  The pita will puff nicely and should be ready. Remove from the oven and cover the baked pitas with a clean towel while you work on the rest of the pitas.
  8. To cook pita on stovetop: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. (Test by adding a couple drops of water to the skillet, the skillet is ready when the beads of water sizzle immediately). Drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin olive oil and wipe off any excess. Working with one pita at a time, lay a rolled-out pita on the skillet and bake for 30 seconds, until bubbles start to form. Using a spatula, flip the pita over and cook for 1-2 minutes on  the other side, until large toasted spots appear on the underside. Flip again and cook another 1-2 minutes to toast the other side. The pita is ready when it puffs up forming a pocket (sometimes, with this method, the pita may not puff or may only form a small pocket. Try pressing the surface of the pita gently with a clean towel). Keep baked pita covered with a clean towel while you work on the rest.