My freezer and I have a special relationship. Just yesterday I made a trip to the grocery store to pick up two items: half and half (I was almost out) and butter that was on sale. Since butter prices are now through the roof, it was worth the trip to that store to get butter at sale price. The thing is…I had already picked up 2 packs of butter (the limit per visit) a few days prior.
So now I have four pounds of unsalted butter in my freezer, plus one pound of organic pastured salted butter in the freezer. Hey, the pastured stuff truly is seasonal, and it’s absolutely delicious smothered on bread and toast – pretty much the only thing I use it for. It’s also much, much better for you.
A couple of months ago, one of the area grocery stores had a special on boneless, skinless chicken breasts. We’re talking buy a pack, get a pack free. Naturally, I stocked up, and immediately loaded my purchase into the freezer. (If you are a regular reader, you probably realize by now that my freezer consists of butter, chicken, chicken stock, some leftovers for quick meals, and a few bags of produce.)
Many people look down on the boneless, skinless breast because it lacks the flavor the darker meat possesses. It’s also extremely easy to overcook, going from perfect to dry in the blink of an eye.
However, it’s perfect for stir-fry.
Slice the meat thin (tip: freeze for 10 minutes before slicing), start to marinate it at room temperature before you begin prepping your other ingredients, and then it’s ready to go. The lightning-fast, high heat cooking of a stir-fry will help prevent the meat from overcooking (as long as you remove it from the pan as soon as it’s all opaque on the outside, you’ll be good to go), resulting in extremely tender protein.
I tend to prefer my stir-fry served with brown rice. There’s not a whole lot of fat to help keep me full, so I really need the extra bulk that brown rice affords, compared to its refined counterpart. Because the cooking time of brown rice is so much longer, though, it probably no longer qualifies as a “quick meal.” But I’ll leave that for you to decide; I don’t find it time consuming to start the rice, then go off to do other things for awhile before I start my prep and cooking of the stir-fry.
If you’re planning to make stir-fry on a busy night, simply prep your ingredients a day or two ahead. Slice the chicken up, cut up the vegetables and sort according to the recipe below, and either make the stir-fry sauce or use bottled sauce. It’s up to you to decide if you want to use brown or white rice, or no rice. Often, after a period of indulgence (like now), I like to serve stir-fry over baby spinach. It’s even more healthful and certainly qualifies as “light.”
If you have trouble getting everything to come together at the same time with a meal, here’s a little hint that I hope will help:
For white or brown rice, start heating your wok or skillet when there’s 5 minutes remaining on the cooking time. Make sure you have all ingredients easily accessible when you begin to stir-fry. (I line the bowls up on the back of the stove or on the counter alongside.) When the timer for the rice goes off, simply remove it from the heat and let it sit while you finish the stir-fy. If you’re still unsure, just wait until you remove the rice from the heat; while it’s sitting, go ahead and cook your stir-fry.
Teriyaki Chicken Stir-fry
serves 2 with leftovers for the next meal*
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 broccoli crown
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
1 bell pepper (any color, or a mix)
1/2 medium onion
1 green onion
1/2 cup bottled teriyaki, or stir-fry sauce (recipe below), divided
salt & pepper
Cooked rice, if desired
Slice chicken against the grain into strips, toss with 2 tablespoons teriyaki in a medium bowl. Allow to marinate at room temperature.
Cut florets off broccoli and trim stalk into matchstick-size pieces. Cut carrot into matchsticks about 2 inches long, roughly the same size as the broccoli stalks. Set aside in a medium bowl.
Dice onion and place in medium bowl (reserve other half for another use – suggestion below). Cut pepper (I used half red, half green) into strips about an inch long and a half inch wide; add to bowl. Remove stems from mushrooms, slice mushrooms into 3-4 pieces, depending on size; add to bowl. Slice green onion; add white parts to bowl, reserve greens for garnish.
Heat peanut oil in large skillet or wok over high heat. Season chicken with a sprinkle of salt and pepper and stir-fry until opaque, remove to a clean bowl. Add broccoli/carrot mixture and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Add pepper/mushroom mixture and stir-fry until mushrooms are beginning to soften.
Return chicken to pan. Add remaining stir-fry sauce and cook until thickened. (This should be plenty of time to reheat the chicken and finish cooking it.) Serve over prepared rice and garnish with green onions.
Teriyaki Stir-fry Sauce
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons dry sherry
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon peeled, grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Combine all ingredients with 1/3 cup water. Use as directed in the recipe.
*Reserve half the stir-fry for the meal of leftovers. You will also need flour tortillas (preferably fajita size), green onions, and shredded cheddar cheese.
If you have leftover onions and peppers, you can always combine them in a plastic bag or container, like I did here:
These thinly sliced peppers and onions were earmarked for a pizza I planned on making later in the week.