Monday, June 14, 2010

Good Idea: Prep chicken for later...

I was thinking that we don't just need great recipes on-hand, we also need good ingredients on-hand. I've found it's always easier to whip up a quick meal when I've already done a few steps. So here's a "Good Idea" for you -

Even though I hate this job, it's always SO worth it to have pre-cooked & prepared chicken in my freezer.

I stew chicken in water with dried minced garlic or onion. I use whatever chicken is on sale, but most often I use these 4 lb bags of flash-frozen boneless, skinless breasts. They're the easiest to work with & have the least amount of waste (bone, skin, tendons, etc).

When the chicken is done & prepped, I store 2 cup & 4 cup quantities in zip-top storage bags in my freezer. It's a life-saver to be able to pull a bag out in the morning & have chicken ready to go at dinnertime!

Here's what I do:

Bring water & dried minced garlic or onion just to a simmer in a large stock pot. Add chicken pieces.

Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes or so, until the chicken pieces are just cooked through. (The chicken will continue cooking when you use it in a recipe later. You don't want raw though - just barely cooked through - no pink.)

Take the chicken pieces out & place on a cutting board to cool slightly - just so you can handle them without burning your fingers.

Cut away the waste pieces (like bones, skin, tendons, etc) and prepare the rest by hand-shredding or cutting it into cubes.

I usually shred half the batch & cube the other half.

Put shredded or cubed pieces into a measuring cup. When you've reached the desired amount, pour the prepared chicken into a zip-top bag. Label the outside so you know how much you have.

Zip the top & squeeze out the excess air, then place in your freezer.

You can freeze the bags flat or roll them. Either way, they take up very little freezer space.

You can also add green chilis to the bag if you plan to use the chicken in a Mexican-flavored dish or spoon in some minced garlic if you plan to use it for an Italian-flavored dish.

I've also pre-cooked & spiced ground turkey for future use. I like to cook it with onions & green peppers and with taco spices. You can also pre-mix meatloaf & put it in a zip-top bag. Just defrost & bake.

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