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Easy dinner recipes: Simple chicken ideas in 40 minutes or less

It's easy to be bored by chicken, but just a little preparation can go a long way in making something so versatile absolutely delicious week after week.

Basque-style chicken: For dinner in just over 30 minutes, pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts until thin (this helps the breasts cook evenly -- and quickly). Pan fry the breasts for just a few minutes until done. Then, in the same pan you cooked the breasts, fix a quick Basque-style sauce. Olives, tomatoes, herbs and rich pancetta come together in a quick and flavorful sauce. 

Chunky vegetable chicken soup: You don't even need the stovetop for this one; simply fix the whole dish in the microwave. Best of all, it comes together in less than 45 minutes.

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Grilled chicken Caesar salad: You can't go wrong with this classic salad, and it's a perfect way to use leftover grilled chicken. The whole dish comes together in only 20 minutes.

You can find the recipes below.

And for more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

BASQUE-STYLE CHICKEN

Total time: 35 minutes

Servings: 2

Note: From former test kitchen director Donna Deane. Espelette pepper is available at specialty food stores. You can substitute canned San Marzano tomatoes for fresh tomatoes.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 7 ounces each

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/4 -inch pieces

2 tablespoons minced shallot

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/8 teaspoon Espelette pepper

3 sprigs thyme

1/2 cup diced tomato, cut into 3/4 -inch dice

1/4 cup nicoise olives

1. Place each chicken breast between two large pieces of plastic wrap. Using the flat side of a meat mallet or heavy skillet, pound each breast until it is uniformly about one-fourth-inch thick. Season each piece with one-fourth teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Place each breast on top of a large piece of plastic wrap or wax paper.

2. In a large skillet, heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the chicken, one piece at a time, and saute until golden brown, about 2 1/2 minutes on the first side and 30 seconds on the other. Remove the chicken to a plate. Set aside in a warm place.

3. Drain the excess fat from the pan and add the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until browned, about 2 minutes. Add the shallot and saute for 1 minute, until tender, then add the garlic and saute just until aromatic, a few seconds, being careful not to brown. Add the wine, stirring to scrape up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan.

4. Stir in the chicken broth, the Espelette pepper, thyme and tomatoes. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes so that the flavors develop. Stir in the olives.

5. Add the chicken back to the pan, spooning the sauce over it. Cook for 1 minute, then remove the chicken to a plate. Spoon the sauce evenly over each piece and serve immediately.

Each serving: 515 calories; 45 grams protein; 6 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 30 grams fat; 8 grams saturated fat; 135 mg. cholesterol; 1,144 mg. sodium.

CHUNKY VEGETABLE CHICKEN SOUP

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 whole cloves

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans chicken broth

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with liquid

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, with liquid

1/4 cup red or white wine

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1 to 2 cups loosely packed spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

1. Toss together chicken chunks, oil, garlic and cloves in 2 1/2-quart casserole dish or microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high power until chicken is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken to separate bowl and discard cloves. Keep chicken warm.

2. Add carrots, celery, onion and broth to casserole and cover with lid or plastic wrap. Cook on high power until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, wine, salt, pepper and thyme. Cover and cook until mixture bubbles, 10 minutes. Stir to mix all ingredients. Add reserved chicken and microwave at high power until all ingredients are hot and flavors combined. Add spinach and cover until spinach wilts, 3 minutes.

Each serving: 344 calories; 1,505 mg sodium; 51 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 38 grams carbohydrates; 31 grams protein; 6.65 grams fiber.

GRILLED CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD

Total time:

20 minutes

Servings:

6

Note:

Although many recipes call for uncooked eggs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found them to be a potential carrier of food-borne illness and recommends that infants, the elderly and immuno-compromised people avoid raw eggs.

1 egg

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 oil-packed anchovy filets, patted dry and minced

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for garnish

3 hearts of romaine lettuce, well-chilled

1 1/2 cups homemade or purchased large croutons

4 lemon-grilled chicken breasts, thinly sliced

Freshly ground pepper

1. Cook the egg

in boiling water for 2 minutes. Immediately rinse it with cold water until the egg is cool enough to handle. Set aside.

2. To make the dressing,

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whisk together the garlic, anchovies, salt and lemon juice in a small bowl. Peel the egg and add it to the bowl, whisking the dressing until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking vigorously to thicken. Whisk in the cheese. Taste and adjust the flavor. Set aside.

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3. Separate the romaine leaves.

To assemble the salad, pour half of the dressing in the bottom of an oversized bowl. Add the croutons and toss in the dressing until thoroughly coated. Add the lettuce and remaining dressing. Toss just until coated. Divide the salad among 6 plates. Arrange the sliced chicken over the top. Garnish with additional cheese and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Each serving:

414 calories; 681 mg sodium; 122 mg cholesterol; 27 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 35 grams protein; 0.92 gram fiber.

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