How often do you order chicken in a restaurant? That means on a night out, not a trip to Nando’s (or worse). Not very often at all? Hardly ever? Only when all the other choices sound unappealing? There you go: the same applies to me. Because we eat the bird at home all the bloody time, why should we order it when someone else is cooking, arguably better, for us?
I can hardly think of a memorable restaurant meal that would feature chicken. And yet, that’s the flagship death row supper, and an incredibly common answer to ‘your favourite food’ question! So what’s the deal?
I think it is just such a commonplace staple, we (the carnivores that is) treat it like we do bread. Boring, but daily fare.
And the boringest of all, chicken breast fillet is an even more ubiquitous ingredient in our cooking.
I’m guilty as charged: a couple of chicken fillets is a recurring item on my shopping list for the butcher’s – even though my local shop is stocked up with various cuts. It’s not too expensive even though I only buy free range, it’s weight watching friendly and it’s one of the best sources of protein. Only so, so boring.
But I do try to do less boring things to the bird, and so should you. Even that tedious breast fillet can be turned into an exciting dish, I promise.
The whole bird can be cooked so it tastes like it came from a French market town rotisserie, complete with roasted potatoes. Thighs are the best cooked under a skillet (or on a barbecue at the right time of year). And now for the dreaded breast!
Not dreaded but breaded (excuse the lame pun), in the shape of chicken Milanese, garlic fried chicken or my own invention: chicken rarebit. If it’s not the whole fillet we’re thinking about but bits and pieces, you can’t beat cheesy nuggets.
Breading and frying is messy; creamy chicken with leeks and mushrooms isn’t, and none the less tasty. If you love Asian flavours, make it kung pao or yu xiang chicken. And if it’s Italian style you’re after, you can do worse than chicken saltimbocca or Fiorentina.
Chicken salad? Here’s one with feta and melon. Chicken tray bake? Absolutely, with chunky vegetables. And there are enchiladas, pies and tagines. And more.
If this helps broaden your chicken dinners scope, I’m delighted. Happy (chicken) cooking!