Chicken is a frequent dinner item in my house; I'm thinking that it is in yours as well. What could be more versatile (or comforting) than a whole roasted chicken, simply seasoned, that you transform into other meals during the week?
But roasting a whole chicken is not always practical and often you need to throw together something quickly. If you can prepare partially ahead (like marinate before you go to work in the morning), you can have a top-notch dinner that night (or, if you freeze what you marinate, which works very well in many cases, you can have a top-notch dinner another night).
If you want to extend yourself beyond the usual lemon and pepper seasoning, seasoned salt or jar of store-bought BBQ sauce, I've listed some ideas for you below. I'm not going to suggest seasonings for duck, goose, grouse, pheasant, turkey, or other game birds on the premise that those kinds of birds are usually for special meals. To properly and elegantly cook a turkey or any other exotic bird deserves forethought, time, and often, specialty ingredients. We'll leave the exotic poultry to a post of their own sometime in future.
Meanwhile, here's what works well with chicken:
~ Sweet paprika, minced garlic, oregano, S & P on boneless or bone-in pieces to grill or broil.
~ Any kind of pesto to grill or broil, or even as a topping after cooking.
~ Chopped garlic, fresh lemon juice, EVOO and fresh rosemary, S & P to grill or broil. Add cayenne if you want classic "deviled chicken."
~ Marinate pounded boneless breasts in balsamic vinegar, a smashed clove of garlic, EVOO and S & P. Pan fry in EVOO or grill. Serve with a chopped herb salad on top, dressed simply with EVOO and fresh lemon juice.
~ Pound boneless breasts thin; dip in beaten egg, then in a mixture of panko, chopped fresh rosemary and freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese. Pan fry in a little EVOO. Deglaze pan with red wine vinegar, remove from heat and add a little more EVOO. Serve chicken breasts with an arugula salad on top; drizzle warm vinaigrette over salad.
~ For boneless chicken breasts, use any kind of spice mixture combined with good quality mayo, coat chicken breasts with mayo mixture and roll in panko or crushed cornflakes; bake or broil. Yes, you can use ranch dressin' mix.
~ Bone-in chicken pieces marinated with EVOO, lemon slices, chopped green olives, freshly ground black pepper and ground cumin; grill or broil.
~ S & P on pounded boneless breast pieces; pan fry in EVOO and a little butter. Remove breasts and keep warm. Add more butter to pan. Combine lemon juice, capers, a little chicken stock or dry white wine. Reduce by 1/2. Use as sauce for chicken breasts. Or, after adding more butter to pan, add 1/4 cup minced shallot and caramelize. Deglaze pan with a splash of brandy. Add madeira or marsala and reduce by 1/2. Add some chopped fresh herbs, such as sage, thyme or tarragon. Use as sauce for chicken breasts. Garnish either sauce with freshly chopped parsley. After you cook chicken this way, you will understand why the French are so revered in the kitchen.
~ Sprinkle bone-in chicken pieces with S & P, lay thin garlic and lemon slices over. Sprinkle with a generous amount of cracked Sicilian olives (you can substitute Spanish olives). Drizzle with EVOO and 1/2 cup white wine and roast, uncovered, until chicken is done. Similar to a suggestion above, but roasting this combination of garlic, lemon, olives and white wine does something very special to chicken. Try it.
~ Season bone-in chicken pieces with S & P; brown on all sides in Dutch oven. Saute diced or pearl onions in butter and EVOO (or better yet, diced bacon) in small sauce pan; deglaze with brandy. Add to Dutch oven, along with some thyme, a little chicken stock, about a cup of dry red wine and more S & P. Roast or cook on stove top until chicken is tender. You can garnish with mushrooms sauteed in EVOO and finished in sherry, along with some chopped fresh parsley.
~ Sprinkle bone-in chicken breasts with S & P and roast in oven. Meanwhile, combine some orange juice concentrate with some honey until you get a glaze consistency. Use to brush on chicken while it's roasting.
~ Combine hoisin sauce with fresh grated ginger, soy sauce, lime zest, sesame oil and minced garlic. Marinate boneless chicken breasts for about 2 hours in this mixture and grill. Alternatively, cut boneless breasts into 1 1/2" pieces, marinate and skewer before grilling.
~ Combine 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup yellow mustard and 2 tsp. curry powder to use as a glaze for chicken wings or thighs. Bake in oven until crispy. You can also use this sauce for pieces of boneless chicken breast that you skewer and grill, brushing with sauce frequently.
~ Saute1 large onion, sliced, in oil in frying pan until golden and soft. Remove onion from pan and sprinkle 4 bone-in chicken pieces with S & P, then brown on all sides in same pan. Remove chicken to plate to keep warm. Add a little chicken broth to deglaze pan, then stir in a generous amount of Hungarian paprika (don't skimp on this ingredient--use the real thing) and 2 Tbs of minced green pepper. Return chicken to pan and lay slices from one small tomato on top of chicken. Add more chicken broth if necessary; cover and simmer until chicken is tender, spooning sauce over from time to time during cooking. Just before serving, stir in a generous dollop of sour cream and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
~ Combine several cloves of garlic, smashed, a few green onions roughly chopped, some fresh ginger, roughly chopped, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and freshly ground black pepper with boneless, skinless chicken thighs pounded thin. Marinate for about 2 hours. Grill chicken pieces and garnish with sesame seeds.
~ Make Tish's Sweet Salsa Dump Chicken: combine a pkg. of taco seasoning mix (or make your own), 1 cup apricot jam and1 1/2 cups salsa. Add 4 to 6 pieces bone-in chicken and marinate for at least 2 hours or freeze for later use in a large zip-lock bag. Bake chicken in sauce until tender. Kids love this!
Please know this is not an exhaustive list, but it should get you started. Write or call me and let me know what you did to make chicken special!