Boneless, skinless chicken breasts — a cut at which I have so often scoffed — proved their worth recently in my kitchen.
A sale price justified my purchase of Foster Farms’ organic chicken breasts. Pound for pound, boneless, skinless breasts typically are among the most costly meats, even if not organic, at any grocer.
Although I’ve often decried meat off the bone — and poultry, in particular, without its skin — as lacking flavor, the taste of this meat adjusted my attitude. As is the case with so many organic foods, this one really does taste better than conventionally raised versions.
The key to keeping boneless, skinless chicken breasts moist and succulent is cooking in some type of liquid. I chose to poach mine with fresh lemon and herbs and then slice them against the grain for serving. This method proved tasty enough for my kids’ young palates. If you want something a bit more flavorful, consider brining.
A recent story by Tribune News Service recommended dry-brining over wet. But each adds flavor and keeps the meat tender. For wet-brining, simply dissolve 2 teaspoons salt in 2 cups water and immerse a chicken breast for 30 minutes For dry-brining, sprinkle both sides of each chicken breast with 1 teaspoon salt and refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Locking moisture into a piece of skinless meat also invites coating it with wet ingredients that will cook into a type of crust. I can vouch for plain yogurt. Mixed with lemon zest and lots of chopped, fresh herbs, it imparts richness and isn’t nearly as tangy as one would expect. When the proteins caramelize, they mellow and become almost sweet.
I’d also consider this recipe as a fitting repository for the tubs of prepared hummus that my husband likes to keep on hand. A longtime fan of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, he would appreciate the ease of preparing this dish all in one pan.
Hummus-Crusted Chicken on Vegetables
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 to 3 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
1 medium onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup plain hummus (or you could try a flavored variety, such as red pepper)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 450 F. Pour the oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the squash and onions, stirring them around to coat with oil, then spread them in an even layer. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper to taste.
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then place on top of vegetables. Cover each chicken breast with some of the hummus, spreading to edges. Squeeze juice from the lemon over entire dish, then sprinkle with the smoked paprika.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through, hummus coating is lightly browned and vegetables are fork-tender.
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe adapted by Tribune News Service from www.gimmesomeoven.com