Weeknight Cooking

Turn a Package of Chicken Breasts Into Dinner, Conquer the Week

Three ideas for tonight.

January 27, 2020
Photo by Ty Mecham. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

If you went grocery shopping this weekend without a game plan (raises hand), then you may well have grabbed a package of chicken breasts and tossed them in your cart. You probably did this because your family all likes chicken; it’s a big common-denominator food, probably the most popular protein in the country, and you knew that you could pull something together with other ingredients you have on hand. And then, when it was time to cook them up, you might have let out a small sigh—could someone throw out a little inspiration, maybe?

I’ve been there and I’ve done that, so here are three dinner suggestions for something new (but not overly challenging) and 100 percent crowd-pleasing—each using a single package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

3 Dinner Ideas for Tonight

Option #1: The Classic (With a Twist)

Boy oh boy oh boy do my boys love chicken Parmigiana. It's a dish that belongs, at least in our house, in the What’s-Not-to-Love category. And indeed: What’s not to love? Juicy chicken, crispy coating, tangy tomato sauce, melty mozzarella, and of course a shower of Parmesan. Fried chicken meets pizza—kind of, sort of.

But here’s my twist: I wondered if perhaps putting the cheese directly onto the breaded and browned cutlets, baking them in the oven to finish cooking (and to melt the mozz), and then topping all of that with the sauce at the end might help keep the top of the chicken less soggy. And it did! Not the only way to go, for sure, but a fun little curveball for crispy lovers.

Recipe: Chicken Parmigiana

Option #2: The Oldie-but-Goodie

I remember eating peanut chicken as a kid when we went out for American Chinese and loving it. I had all but forgotten about it for 30 years ... until now. This recipe—ready in less than half an hour—has so much flavor and so few ingredients to make it happen. The chicken is coated with a mixture of garlic, scallions and hoisin sauce, which offers just the right level of intensity. The nutty crunch from the peanuts tastes fabulous. Throw some slivered scallions on top, and you’re in business.

Recipe: Chicken Stir-Fry With Peanuts

Option #3: The Favorite

I have a lot to say about this chicken. I really do. The first thing I will say is that it’s (shh) my favorite, easily one of the most delicious chicken dishes I have made in a while.

The second thing I will say is that it also might be one of the prettiest, which can be a hard thing to do when your canvas is a pallid boneless chicken breast. We’ll have to throw our thanks for all of the above to a bit of cream, cherry tomatoes, spinach, and fresh herbs. When in doubt, these are ingredients to turn to for color, flavor, freshness, and a little lushness.

Or when you want to pretend that you’re in Tuscany (or Umbria, or somewhere else in Italy that’s really, really good). Garlic and Parmesan round out a simple pan sauce, and you can serve it over any kind of pasta or starch that speaks to you.

How do you cook a package of chicken breasts? Let us know in the comments below.
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Author of The Mom 100 Cookbook and themom100.com blog. A New Yorker, cook, and mom, I don't sit still very much.