3 fresh takes on the basic boneless chicken breast

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 5:30 a.m.CDT

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Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are literally THE white meat of the meat world. They are a great lean protein, quick and easy to prepare, freeze well, and take to just about any flavor or cuisine you care for. But they also can be rather dull. So we’ve come up with three ways to jazz up this weeknight staple.

First, we created a spice rub. It’s as simple as it sounds – you stir together a few spices, rub it into the meat, then slap it on the grill or into a pan on the stove. It’s a great option to use on a sandwich since the breasts are pounded out flat before cooking.

Our second choice was a marinade. In the morning, toss all the ingredients in a zip-close bag and pop the whole thing into the refrigerator. When you get home from work, you’ll have a flavorful and moist dinner ready to cook. Consider throwing these tenders over a bed of rice or on top of a salad.

Our last option is smothered. Sometimes you want a gooey, sticky sauce to moisten things up. These breasts work especially well alongside roasted potato wedges and corn on the cob. Of course, if chicken breasts aren’t on your menu tonight, any of these options would work equally as well on chicken thighs, pork, even salmon or steak.

Spice-Rubbed Chicken Breasts

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Set the chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice horizontally across the piece to create 2 thinner halves. One at a time, cover each half with plastic wrap, then use a meat mallet to pound to an even thickness. Drizzle the pounded halves with the olive oil and rub all over.

In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, thyme, salt, pepper and allspice. Rub the mixture over both sides of each of the 4 pieces of meat.

If cooking on the grill, heat to medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes per side. If cooking on the stovetop, in a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium-high. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes per side, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Let rest for 5 minutes.

••••••

These marinated chicken strips are incredibly versatile. Prep them in the morning, then just cook off when you get home from work. They can be cooked on the grill, in a grill pan on the stove, or even on a rack in the oven.

Miso-Lime Marinated Chicken Strips

Start to finish: 6 to 8 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 4

2 tablespoons white miso

2 tablespoons lime juice

Zest of 1 lime

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon chili-garlic paste

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound), cut into strips

In a zip-close plastic bag, combine the miso, lime juice, lime zest, black pepper, honey and chili-garlic paste. Squish around in the bag until well combined. Place the chicken strips into the bag and squeeze out any air. Refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 450 degrees F. or heat the grill to medium-high. If using the oven, place a wire rack over a baking sheet and mist with cooking spray.

Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade. Arrange the chicken strips over the rack-baking sheet or on the grates of the heated grill. Grill for 2 minutes or roast for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Let rest for 5 minutes.

••••••

Sticky Orange-Cilantro Smothered Chicken

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 4

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound), cut into 2-inch chunks

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup orange marmalade

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large, oven-safe skillet, mix together the chicken broth, marmalade, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper and cilantro. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Add the chicken, turning to coat, then place the skillet in the oven and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 160 degrees F.

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