Tuesday, September 03, 2013

I feel like chicken tonight

Dinner’s in the freezer! (And hi, everyone. Still alive and well, albeit somewhat sleep-deprived. Apparently, time doesn’t stop when you have a baby. Did you know everyone’s posting about fall recipes already?) So, I said last time that one of our freezer meals was make-again good, but I now realize I don’t have a good shot. My camera is filled with pictures of the Little Prince, with only a few food shots sprinkled here and there… Here’s what you might end up with if you make these pesto chicken stuffed shells.

Except I couldn’t find shells at the grocery store, so I stuffed manicotti instead. I also made this with a dairy-free cream cheese substitute, but I used real parmesan (the dish is therefore lactose-free, though not dairy-free). I also omitted the garlic, since it was the early days of breastfeeding, but obviously it would be good with garlic too! The Engineer and I both loved this dish, and I’ll definitely be making it again.

12-16 jumbo pasta shells (or manicotti)
4 oz. cream cheese substitute (such as Tofutti), softened
1 cup freshly grated parmesan + ¼ cup for topping
3 Tbsp. prepared pesto (homemade or store-bought)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I used 2 breasts)
2 cloves garlic, minced (if desired)
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package. Cook pasta shells only until al dente; the pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked. Drain the pasta shells and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except the ¼ cup of cheese for the topping. Fill the pasta shells with the filling and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ cup of cheese over filled shells.

Freeze if desired, and thaw overnight in the fridge before continuing.

Preheat oven to 350 °F and bake shells covered for 30 minutes, then uncovered for 10 minutes, or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

If you are in the mood for chicken, though, you might also try this parmesan chicken cutlet recipe from Bon Appétit. It was actually created with a freezer in mind, and it worked beautifully. I’m sure the basic principle would work with any breaded chicken or pork recipe you like, too. You just need to come up with a side dish, but in a pinch, a green salad works fine.

¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1½ cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
¼ cup grated parmesan
1 Tbsp. mustard powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 small skinless, boneless chicken cutlets (about 1½ lb. total), pounded to ¼” thickness
8 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1 lemon, halved (for serving)

Place flour in a shallow bowl. Beat eggs in a second shallow bowl. Combine panko, parmesan, and mustard powder in a third shallow bowl and season mixture with salt and pepper.

Season chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Transfer to bowl with beaten egg and turn to coat. Lift from bowl, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Coat with panko mixture, pressing to adhere.

Chicken can be breaded 3 months in advance. Place between pieces of freezer paper or waxed paper and freeze in resealable freezer bags. Thaw before continuing.

Heat 6 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy skillet or a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook cutlets, adding remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to pan between batches, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to a paper towel–lined plate and season with salt. Serve with lemon.

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