While the benefits of brining, and the pitfalls of freezing, can make or break your poultry repast, distinguished mention goes to one exception that makes the rule. Dark meat, higher in fat, weathers the freezer in a way that surprised and delighted me.
Like most economically minded shoppers, I take advantage of good sales. And when my favorite, organic, boneless chicken thighs were irresistibly marked down, I broke my own rule, bought a bunch and popped several packages into the freezer.
And so the exceptional exception unfolds. It had been a particularly busy day, and at 7:00 pm, dinner was in demand and… in absentia. The frozen thighs would have to do. And they would have to do post haste.
I began the defrosting process by running cold water over the sealed package. When the frozen meat was sufficiently loosened and softened, and a thumbprint could be easily depressed, I unwrapped the rectangle of six contiguous chicken thighs and laid them on a cutting board. Still icy and partially frozen, the chicken could sit safely on the board for another half hour.
During that time, I prepared bulgur wheat with a seasoned chicken stock. While the bulgur absorbed the liquid, I returned to my block of still-chilled chicken thighs, armed with a large, sharp chef’s knife. It was an easy job to cut the partially frozen, firm rectangle of dark meat into cubes, ten slices in length, and five in width. Salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of flour seemed like a good idea, so on they went.
After sautéing the pieces for several minutes, I covered the pan with a domed lid, lowered the heat. I peeked and stirred occasionally. When the pieces seemed halfway done, I tossed in some finely chopped garlic and about a tablespoon of fresh, soft, young finely chopped rosemary and covered until the chicken was almost cooked through. Removing the lid and raising the heat, I finished the cooking process, and allowed some of the juices to reduce. To cool the pieces quickly, I transferred the meat into to a chilled metal bowl and into the fridge. Leftover cooking liquid went into a freezer-safe container to be used another day.
When the chicken cubes were cooled to room temperature, I combined them with the room-temperature bulgur, some fresh chopped dill, generous amounts of chopped parsley, quartered grape tomatoes, a dash of top olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
This last-minute dinner was not only quick, full of protein and fresh summer aromas, it has officially made the list of Quick Dinner Go-To’s.
Chicken Redux: a fast main course salad, perfect for a fast at-home meal, a potluck dinner, or the next day’s table-ready lunch. Go ahead: freeze those thighs. The exception to the rule is actually wise.
What You Need:
1 package of eight boneless chicken thighs, frozen
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh parsley
2-3 T. finely chopped fresh dill
1 T. finely chopped, soft, young rosemary leaves
1 large clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups bulgur cooked in chicken stock, cooled
Fresh lemon juice
Dash cayenne is desired
Large metal bowl, chilled
Large non-stick sauté pan with lid, preferably domed
What To Do:
Defrost the package of chicken under cold running water as per the description above. Place the chicken onto a cutting board. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour onto the chicken, a dash of salt and freshly ground pepper.
Prepare bulgur wheat. Set aside to cool. Chop the parsley and halve the grape tomatoes. Finely chop the dill.
Cut the chicken into cubes. Add about one tablespoon of olive oil to the non-stick pan and sauté the chicken cubes briefly, breaking them up and distributing them evenly in the pan. Cover and reduce heat. Stir occasionally, adding the garlic and rosemary halfway through the cooking. Finish the cooking process without the lid, raising the heat to reduce some of the liquid. Transfer the cooked chicken to a cold metal bowl and refrigerate for about 20- 30 minutes or until the chicken is room temperature. Stir contents every so often to hasten the cooling process.
When the chicken is ready, add the cooled bulgur wheat, chopped parsley, dill and grape tomatoes. Toss the ingredients to blend. Add fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper –and cayenne if desired- to taste. Add good olive oil to taste. Adjust the seasonings, adding more lemon juice, salt, pepper, or cayenne.
If you have additional fresh herbs that seem like a good match, add them. Leftover quinoa in the fridge? Chopped red or yellow pepper? Toss it in. Summer salads are like summer parties: the more, the merrier!
By Lisa Reitman Dobi