When I moved back in with my parents after college, I was very involved in sharing household duties, including cooking. No surprise there, I know. I got into the habit of making baked chicken for dinner rather often. To vary the flavors, I created an informal recipe of sorts that involved adding the chicken to a mix of liquid and spices to marinade then bake.
Over time, I started eating other meats and all but forgot about this “recipe” I had created. Then last summer I prepped 18 dinners in one afternoon for my parents and remembered my ‘formula’ so I hunted it down to use for their freezer meals.
The basic formula I use to enjoy an easy and delicious (as well as varied) way to bake chicken is: chicken + liquid + spices + vegetable + time/heat = dinner. This offers chicken some flavor variety and makes it seem like more effort than it is. It also relies on basics that are often on-hand in the pantry, limiting the need to run to the store for another ingredient.
The marinade time can be nothing if you just want to put it all in a pyrex dish and pop it in the oven or you can let it soak in the flavors up to 24 hours in your fridge. If you put all the stuff together in the dish you’re baking it in then you can just take it out of the fridge and put it in to bake. I like to sear the chicken then return it to the dish to bake the rest of the way, but that’s your choice. Baking time for two boneless breasts is 20-30 minutes at 450F / 225C. I put aluminum foil over the dish and then tear a little (pea-sized) opening at one edge for a little ventilation. Be careful when removing the foil after baking as the steam is very hot. Here is my formula with suggested combinations I love using:
chicken + liquid + spices + vegetable + time/heat = dinner
chicken + white wine + thyme & sundried tomatoes + cut swede or sliced potatoes
chicken + dry sherry, soy sauce & orange juice + ginger + frozen green beans
chicken + apple juice + garlic & dried apple slices + cut carrots
chicken + lemon juice + paprika & ginger + cut potatoes
chicken + jar of salsa + canned corn
chicken + lime & lemon juices + sliced olives & chopped onions + quick preserved lemons & dried apricots (shown)
chicken + lime & lemon juices + cilantro/coriander & sliced onion + sliced potatoes
chicken + Corona beer & lime juice + cilantro/coriander & little fresh ginger + cut sweet potatoes
chicken + apple juice + prunes & dried apple slices + lima beans
chicken + white wine + thyme & shallots + whole turnips
chicken + soy sauce and maple syrup + grated ginger + sliced carrots
chicken + lemon juice + cilantro + sliced potatoes
chicken + soy sauce + can of chopped pineapple + grated ginger
chicken + balsamic vinegar and olive oil + chopped garlic + basil (serve with orzo)
chicken + ketchup and maple syrup with a tiny dash of soy sauce + cut sweet potatoes
chicken + tomato paste + chopped garlic + Italian seasoning
chicken + lemon juice + basil pesto + chopped garlic
chicken + apple juice + Dijon mustard and honey
chicken + lemon juice + chopped garlic + rosemary (kinda like this recipe)
These formulas also work on some fish dishes or you can use these as sauces/glazes for a roast chicken. If doing that, try to place a section of whatever fruit you are using the juice of in the body of the bird while it is cooking. Other stuffing might harbor bacteria, but the fruit will lend a subtle flavor (this works with fruit sections or a piece or two of dried fruit).
If hesitant to use an herb or fruit because you are not sure you will like the flavor, feel free to substitute or only put in a little itty bit. Sometimes I put in a cup or two of the liquid then only a pinch of one herb and a whole lot of another.