Every family argues about what to eat for dinner. But the Shrader family of Bluebell, West Virginia, took dinner-table combat to a whole new level last summer when 49-year-old Jackie Lee and his son, Harley Lee, 24, whipped out .22-caliber pistols and exchanged fire after sparring over how to cook their meal.
What food could trigger a kitchen gun battle? The harmless, boneless, skinless—and often flavorless—chicken breast, that's what.
Sure, this omnipresent cut of poultry is the leanest source of protein this side of tofu or fish—a single serving offers 26 grams of protein for the price of 1 gram of saturated fat. But it's boring as hell. And it doesn't help that most people eat their annual average of 88 pounds one of two ways: soaked in Italian salad dressing or slathered in barbecue sauce.
In my mind, that's exactly how I hear the Shrader feud erupting. "Marinade!" one might have said. "No! Barbecue sauce," the other yelled. Back and forth it went until it came to blows, then bullets. (Harley Lee took a slug to the head, but managed to survive.)
That's why I came up with this list—not one, not two, but 50 different ways to prepare a chicken breast. What good is eating healthy food if the boredom nearly kills you?
Basic technique: Cut the raw chicken into bite-sized pieces or thin strips. Cook them in a nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned. Then add the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Tip: Sesame oil gives stir-fries their distinct flavor. Its nutritional profile is similar to that of olive oil (i.e., high in the unsaturated fats you want). But if you don't have sesame, use canola or peanut oil, since olive oil can burn at high temperatures.
1. 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce; 2 tsp sesame oil; 1/2 c green or red bell pepper, cut into strips; 1/4 medium onion, cut lengthwise into strips; 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2. 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce; 2 tsp sesame oil; 1/3 c matchstick carrots; 1/3 c chopped celery; 1 green onion, sliced; 2 Tbsp chopped, unsalted peanuts
3. 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce; 2 tsp sesame oil; 1/2 c asparagus tips; 2 Tbsp chopped, unsalted cashews
4. 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce; 1 Tbsp lemon juice; 1 tsp lemon zest; 1 tsp honey; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1/2 c snow peas; 1 c chopped celery
5. 1 whisked egg; 1/2 c (or more) chopped broccoli; 1/4 medium onion, cut lengthwise into strips; 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes; 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
6. 1 whisked egg; 1/2 c snow peas; 1/2 c green or red bell pepper, cut into strips; 1/4 onion, cut lengthwise into strips; 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
Basic technique: Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake the chicken breast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an internal roasting thermometer reaches 170°. Don't overcook it. Err on the side of tenderness. An overcooked, dried-out chicken breast won't give you salmonella, but you probably won't want to eat it in the first place.
Tip: Quickly searing the breast in a hot skillet will help avoid dryness because it locks in the bird's juices.
Watery ready-made sauces like salsa will bake fine—some of the liquid will boil away as the chicken bakes. But thicker sauces, like barbecue or ranch, need water or broth mixed in, otherwise you'll be left with a sticky, blackened char.
Tip: Use a small baking dish to keep the meat covered with sauce.
7. 1/3 c salsa
8. 2 Tbsp jalape?o cheese dip, 2 Tbsp salsa, 1 Tbsp water
9. 2 Tbsp marinara sauce, 2 Tbsp water
10. 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce, 2 Tbsp water
11. 2 Tbsp ranch dressing, 2 Tbsp water
12. 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp olive oil
13. 3 Tbsp chicken broth; 1 Tbsp mustard; 1 clove garlic, crushed
14. 2 Tbsp condensed mushroom soup, 2 Tbsp water
15. 2 Tbsp pesto, 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium chicken broth
16. 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1/4 c crushed pineapple with juice
17. 3 Tbsp chicken broth, 2 Tbsp light coconut milk, 1/4 tsp curry powder
18. 1/3 c chicken broth, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 Tbsp apple juice
19. 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar; 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce; 1 clove garlic, crushed
20. 2 Tbsp hot sauce, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 tsp chili powder
21. 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp orange marmalade, 1/4 tsp rosemary