For a fast weeknight meal, chicken is my most reliable standby. It's inexpensive, easy to cook, and relatively healthy (subject to the preparation, of course), all of which makes it a great base for a filling home-cooked dinner after a day of work. On top of that, it's also exceptionally versatile, so there's no reason you should ever get bored with it. This set of 17 recipes, from comfort food like Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese to your very own mock-takeout kung pao chicken, will encourage you to take advantage of that trait. And, lest you wonder if they're worth the effort, all of these can be made and on the table in less time than it takes your favorite pizza place to deliver.
Easy Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts With White Wine and Fines Herbes Pan Sauce
Few weeknight dinners do a better job of combining ease and deliciousness than pan-roasted chicken with pan sauce. The keys to success here are searing your chicken on the stove before finishing it in the oven to keep it juicy, and using store-bought chicken stock fortified with gelatin, which makes the sauce smooth and rich. Here, we use classic fines herbes for flavoring: parsley, tarragon, chervil, and chives.
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Easy Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts With Lemon and Rosemary Pan Sauce
Here, our sauce is flavored with lemon, shallots, rosemary, and—the secret ingredient—a little soy sauce, which is a quick way to add a powerful dose of umami. Normally we'd add fresh herbs as we finish cooking, but rosemary's flavor comes out too strong if it's left until the end. Add it with the shallots early on to give it a chance to mellow out.
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Easy Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts With Bourbon-Mustard Pan Sauce
This version replaces the white wine used in the previous two dishes with sweet, woodsy bourbon. A generous amount of spicy whole-grain mustard balances out the sweetness of the liquor, while parsley and lemon juice brighten up the dish.
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Easy Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts With Morel Mushroom Pan Sauce
We make this sauce with earthy morel mushrooms, but other varieties, like shiitake, matsutake, or cremini, would work as well—use whatever's good and/or in season. Regardless of the type, get the mushrooms nice and brown by sautéing them in oil before adding your wine and stock. When the liquid goes in, be sure to scrape up all the little browned bits stuck to the pan, which will give your sauce even more flavor.
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Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs With Butternut Squash and Carrots
Chicken breasts are a popular choice for weeknight cooking, but chicken thighs have the advantage of being much juicier and more flavorful. Here, we first sear the chicken on the stovetop over high heat to crisp up the skin, then roast it in the oven on a bed of squash and carrots. The chicken juices that drip onto the vegetables help to tame their natural sweetness.
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Soups and Stews
Easy Pressure Cooker Green Chile With Chicken
Awesome chili made from scratch in less than half an hour? It sounds impossible, but a pressure cooker makes it a piece of cake. To make this chile verde, just throw chunks of chicken in a pressure cooker with tomatillos, peppers, onion, garlic, cumin, and salt for 15 minutes—no extra liquid required. Once the cooking is done, remove the chicken, shred it, blend up the sauce, and mix everything back together.
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30-Minute Pressure Cooker Chicken With Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Chorizo
The heavy-hitting ingredients called for here—roasted tomatoes, smoked paprika, and chorizo—pack this stew with flavor in short order. Using pre-diced tomatoes and canned chickpeas makes the recipe that much more convenient. To finish, mix in a little sherry vinegar and drizzle with good olive oil.
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30-Minute Pressure Cooker Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Traditional pho requires hours of simmering to develop the flavors of the broth. With a pressure cooker's help, you can cut that down to a mere 20 minutes. In that time, the heady mix of cilantro, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel seed, and coriander seed will fully saturate the broth, and the chicken drumsticks will break down, releasing gelatin and adding body to the soup.
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Quick and Easy Pressure Cooker Chicken, Lentil, and Bacon Stew With Carrots
In case you haven't yet realized, the pressure cooker really is one of the handiest tools out there for making quick dinners, and we're not done with it yet. This stew may taste complex, but in fact, it's made with just a handful of ingredients. Chicken and lentils lay the foundation; diced pancetta bumps up the meatiness; and onions, carrots, and bay leaves add to the deep, rich flavor.
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30-Minute Easy Chipotle Chicken Chili
Of course, it's completely possible to make quick soups and stews without a pressure cooker, especially by relying on a few easy shortcuts. Using ground chicken and canned beans, you can prepare this smoky chili in just half an hour. Three kinds of pepper supply the heat: raw jalapeños, dried cayenne, and chipotles in adobo.
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20-Minute Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup With Chicken
The secret to this easy variation on tom yum soup is jarred Thai red curry paste, an intense condiment deserving of a permanent spot in your fridge. Frying the paste in oil brings out its flavors to form a powerful base for the other ingredients. Add chicken broth, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and boneless, skinless chicken breast, then spoon the soup over cooked noodles, and you're done.
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Kimchi Chicken and Cabbage Stir-Fry
If you love kimchi's funky, briny, and peppery combination of flavors as much as I do, packing it into a stir-fry is a no-brainer. The flavor can be a little assertive even for us true believers, so we tame it here by adding fresh Napa cabbage right at the end. Serve this one immediately, as the cabbage will release liquid and turn the dish watery if left to sit.
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Takeout-Style Kung Pao Chicken (Diced Chicken With Peppers and Peanuts)
It may not have much in common with traditional Chinese food—including real Sichuan kung pao chicken—but this stir-fry of chicken, peppers, and peanuts in a slightly gloopy sweet-and-sour sauce is one of the most beloved American-Chinese dishes for a reason. Stick with dark meat, which fares much better than white meat in a hot wok.
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Shredded Chicken With Soba and Miso-Butter Sauce
Salty, savory miso butter is a weapon that belongs in every cook's arsenal—in this dish, it's an easy yet luxurious way to sauce soba noodles, shredded chicken, and vegetables. Cooking the noodles in the same pan used to brown the skin-on chicken thighs lets them soak up all the delicious drippings.
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Buffalo Chicken Macaroni and Cheese
Admittedly, we're cheating a little on these last few recipes—they start with cooked chicken meat—but we're betting that leftover roast chicken finds its way into your refrigerator every now and then. (If not, a rotisserie bird bought at the supermarket on your way home from work is an easy fix.) This recipe is a joyful marriage of two great American classics: Buffalo wings and macaroni and cheese. Plenty of grated American and cheddar cheese and Frank's Red Hot make for a gooey, spicy sauce.
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Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich
While we're on the topic of cheesy Buffalo wing mashups, this Buffalo chicken grilled cheese makes unbeatable comfort food for lunch or a simple dinner. Throwing in some crumbled blue cheese with the chicken, Frank's, and Monterey Jack, in true Buffalo-wing style, adds a little funk to cut through the creaminess.
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Mayo-Free Chicken Salad With Kimchi, Ginger, and Scallions
Most chicken salad recipes use mayonnaise to add moisture and flavor. For a lighter version, try using a vinaigrette instead. This one incorporates a little more vinegar than usual to perk up the chicken, plus a hint of sourness from kimchi and spice from fresh ginger. Serve it however you'd like—we think it's especially good on a sandwich, with bitter frisée.
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