When I made corn chowder, I told you that I liked to go to Zumba on Mondays. That means Monday dinner kind of gets short changed because I need something light and quick. This recipe fits the bill. Last Monday, I made this simple chicken dinner with broccoli and rice. As we were eating it I said to Ryan, “this is college Mariel dinner,” and he chuckled and nodded.
This was the meal I made all throughout college. It is the first real meal I ever knew how to make. It is probably the first meal I ever made for Ryan. In college I would’ve made this with defrosted frozen broccoli and a box of Near East rice pilaf, but over the years I’ve stepped up my game and now I can make everything from fresh ingredients.
I haven’t shared this recipe on the blog before because it didn’t seem very special. It seemed so straightforward, who would need this recipe? But the truth is my mom wrote this down for me when I was in college and didn’t know how to cook anything. She was writing down recipes for me in a spiral notebook and I felt like everything she was writing was too fancy (liked baked salmon filets). So I asked her, “how do I make just plain-ass chicken?” And this is it, plain-ass chicken.
This recipe is a great beginner recipe. It’s perfect for college students, busy people, people with few kitchen appliances, and people who want to learn to cook. Here are four other reasons why this meal is awesome.
- It’s fast. The whole thing will take you 45 minutes. Yes, 45 minutes is longer than it takes to defrost a pizza, but it is faster than it takes to defrost a lasagna and can sometimes be faster than delivery.
- It’s cheap. All the ingredients costs me less than £10. It serves two and you’ll still have rice and stock left for a future meal, so really cost per person is even lower.
- It’s made of all whole, fresh, normal ingredients. So you can feel good about making a quick dinner with all ingredients you can pronounce.
- It’s going to teach you three valuable basic cooking skills: how to make rice, how to steam vegetables, and how to cook chicken. Learn the basics and you have the foundation to make all kinds of more complicated stuff in the future.
Now a few notes on preparation. The only special equipment I recommend is a vegetable steamer. I like steaming vegetables because it is healthy and quick. Also, for beginner cooks you’ll be making everything on the stove which is good because it will be easy for you to keep your eye on everything. Also you can steam all kinds of veggies, green beans, asparagus, whatever you like. The vegetable steamer I use is pictured below. I like it because it’s easy to clean and store. It’s kind of floppy though so using the handles to remove the vegetables and steamer is a bit hard. If you aren’t going to steam your veggies, then I recommend roasting them. You can find my favorite roasted broccoli recipe at the Amateur Gourmet’s blog.
We’re going to be using boneless skinless chicken breasts. They don’t often get a lot of love because chicken with bones and skins have a bit more flavor. But boneless skinless is cheap to buy, easy to prepare, and quick to cook. You want to make sure that your chicken breast is uniform in thickness. The reason for this is that the thinner side can cook and dry out before the thicker side is even cooked. To even your chicken you can hammer it with a meat mallet. I don’t have that so I’ll sometimes use the bottom of a sturdy glass. You could also cut your chicken breast lengthwise, giving you pieces of even thickness. This is the method that I like, also because it also cuts down on cooking time.
Last note, for seasoning I used adobo and Old Bay, because that’s what I like. You should use what you would like. Don’t know what you like? Garlic powder, salt, and pepper are always a good choice.
Ok, now let me take you back in time to Mariel’s college days.
Messy level: This recipe is really easy and there isn’t much opportunity for spills or splatter. Still, you have to use three pots so that’s almost a full sink of dishes. Overall though, clean prep and easy clean up.
- ½ cup white rice
- 1 cup chicken stock (you can use water, but stock is more flavorful)
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- adobo (or your preferred seasoning for the chicken)
- 1 medium head of broccoli
- Old Bay (or your preferred seasoning for the broccoli)
- Start with the rice. Put the rice and stock in a medium sauce pan. Heat on high on a back burner (since you're going to set it and leave it). Bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to low. Cover the pan, let it simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. This takes usually 35-40 minutes, but check your packaging. [Beginner tip: to check for doneness, lift the lid, and use your spoon to push aside a bit of rice to see the bottom of the pan. Is there liquid? If so, not done]
- Now prep the chicken to make the breasts even (see note above) Season generously with adobo/seasoning of your choice. Set aside.
- Wash the broccoli. Cut into little florets.
- In a medium saucepan put about ½ inch of water in the bottom. Put the steamer on top of it. Make sure the water doesn't come up over the steamer.
- Put the vegetables on top of the steamer. Sprinkle with Old Bay or the seasoning of your choice.
- Cover the broccoli. Cook on medium-high for about 10 minutes. [Beginner tip: At about 7 minutes, lift the lid and take out a piece of broccoli and test it to see if it tender enough for your liking. Turn off the heat when you feel it is cooked enough]
- Put a little oil in a skillet. Heat the pan on medium-high.
- Flick a little water into the pan. If it does nothing, your pan isn't hot enough. If it pops and sizzles aggressively then it is too hot. If it just jumps a little, you're ready.
- Lower the heat to medium. Add the chicken. Cook on one side for about 3-5 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side for 3-5 minutes. Chicken should be done at about 8 minutes. [Beginner tip: Make a small cut into the chicken breast. Still pink? not done. Increase the heat if it's taking forever, lower the heat if you feel it is browning too quickly]
- Turn off the heat and serve.