|Photo from Pixabay|
Our local supermarket will often feature boneless chicken breasts for $1.69/lb. I nearly always buy a large package or two to freeze. I most often freeze them individually, wrapped in plastic, and this works out well for using however many I want for a particular meal.
This summer, though, I tried a recipe for Basic Mexican Chicken from a Gooseberry Patch slow cooker cookbook, Slow Cooking All Year Round. I got this book for free because my recipe for slow cooker "rotisserie" chicken was published in it.
BASIC MEXICAN CHICKEN
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 pkg, taco seasoning mix*
16-ounce jar salsa
Place chicken in slow cooker; sprinkle with taco seasoning. Pour salsa over top; do not stir. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Shred chicken with 2 forks; mix well with sauce in slow cooker. Serves 6 to 8.
Julie Saifullah, the lady who shared the recipe, wrote, "I make this chicken often because it is so versatile. You can use it to make all kinds of Mexican dishes, like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, rice bowls, nachos, or even chicken tortilla soup!"
This recipe is indeed so versatile, as I found when I tried it for myself. From there it was a short step to thinking about freezing the cooked chicken. I made the recipe again next time chicken was on sale, and packaged meal-sized portions of the Mexican-flavored chicken in quart-size ziplock bags. It proved to be very handy to just pull out a package of cooked chicken to get a start on a soup or casserole.
So recently chicken was on sale again
|Photo from Pixabay|
So I bought two large trays of chicken and cooked one tray with more of an Italian flavor. I put a little olive oil in the bottom of the crock and between the layers. I also made up a dry Italian salad dressing mix* -- a double batch, because this is a lot of chicken to season! -- and sprinkled that between the layers of chicken. I cooked it for about 4 hours at high. When it cooled a bit, I cut it up in cubes and again froze meal-size quantities in quart-size ziplock bags.
The next day I cooked the other tray. I wanted this one to have more of a rotisserie chicken flavor, so I drizzled in a bit of olive oil and sprinkled the layers of chicken very generously with Montreal Chicken seasoning. Again I cooked it about 4 hours at high and packaged it the same way. Of course I labeled the various flavors accordingly -- Mexican, Italian, or seasoned.
(I should add that the Mexican chicken recipe, because of the salsa, comes out with a more "soupy" consistency, but I just divided the liquid among the freezer bags of chicken. It's been fine in the recipes I've tried it in. But if I wanted it less liquid-y, I would just drizzle the chicken with some olive oil, sprinkle with the taco seasoning, and cook it without the salsa.)
I am looking forward to having these "meal starters" at the ready in my freezer for busy days!
There are several pluses to cooking this chicken in the slow cooker which I thought I would mention. First, of course, is that it cooks while you are doing other things. A huge plus in my book! And then there is the fact that several cups of nicely seasoned broth are also produced with this cooking method. You just strain it into a clean container (I use a recycled quart-size yogurt container) and put it in fridge or (for longer storage) freezer. Next time you need chicken broth, it's there!
And then, a very important plus is that you don't need to trim the fat off the chicken breasts before cooking. Most of it melts into the broth (which isn't an issue because you are going to chill the strained broth and can then lift the layer of fat off the top). What small bits of fat remain on the cooked chicken, you can easily trim off with kitchen shears and you won't have wasted a lot of meat as can often happen when trying to remove fat from raw chicken.
And also: * My recipes for taco seasoning mix and Italian dressing mix may be found in this older post: Saving Money in the Kitchen.*