Engineering Weeknight Meals

Commuting sucks doesn’t it? My work day involves getting up around 6am, hopping on a bus for about 45 minutes and walking an additional 15. That’s if everything goes well. If you’ve been keeping up on the math, multiply it by 2 add a little extra and it’s over two hours a day in the shitter. 

So what’s the point besides some bitching and moaning? Well, what does a foodie do for something quick and healthy at 8:00 on a “school night”? In this series, I will go over some of the things I do to keep myself from relying on the likes of the big M, BK, and KFC. It generally won’t be foofy, but it will be quick, tasty and sometimes somewhat healthy. I’d love to get some ideas from you dear readers on how to expand my repertoire.

So, first things first: you need to plan ahead and get a bunch of staples prepped.

Chicken broth is a must. I make 2 gallons at a clip using a pot Jeffrey Dahmer would be proud of. Sorry, was that over the line? Anyway, I make a bunch, and then freeze it into handy 1 quart containers.

A lot of my dishes use ground chicken, it’s quick to make and since I use relatively small (5 oz) servings it feels like you have more meat than you really do (a nice bonus). Having a block of frozen ground meat isn’t very useful though, so I came up with a quick defrosting technique: single serving ground chicken pouches. If you know me by now, you probably guessed that I grind the chicken myself. Lately I’m a bit obsessive about what’s in my food, Nicole wouldn’t be surprised if we started to raise chickens.

To grind the chicken I rely on a bunch of equipment: meat grinder, kitchen scale and vacuum sealer. On a Sunday morning I take 5 pounds of fresh chicken breasts, trim any fat or stray cartilage and cut it into large cubes that fit into the grinder. I happen to use a KitchenAid mixer with the grinder attachment. It’s slow, but better than an industrial grinder I don’t have.

Ok, so now you have a giant bowl of ground chicken you’ll need to prep the vac bags. I make a combination of single servings (5 oz) and doubles. For the small ones, cut the quart FoodSaver bags in half making sure to seal the part which has two open ends before filling. For the doubles just use the whole bag.

Here is where the magic comes in: once you have portioned out the bag and sealed it, flatten out as much as possible squeezing the chicken into all corners. It should look like a huge playing card and be between 1/8 and 1/4″ thick. Because it’s so thin and has a large surface area, you can take it out of the freezer and defrost it on a stone countertop, large aluminum pot, or under cold water in 10 minutes. Or if you are really in a rush, just use it frozen and squeeze it out of the bag like a giant chicken Fla-vor-Ice pop (yuck). Wham, bam, thank you Sam!

So after all this, what actually gets made? You’ve already seen the episode on Jewish Wedding Soup and read the posting for Chicken And Broccoli Teriyaki Burgers, haven’t you? I’ll wait…For the next weeknight meal you’ll have to wait for another posting. After 6 seasons of Lost I picked up a thing or two about suspense.