Fast from Frozen: Pressure Cooker Creamy Italian Chicken

or it's officially a series folks, and possibly an addiction (don't judge me and my inability to plan ahead, just enjoy the good food)

The original recipe: Pressure Cooker Frozen Chicken in Duck Sauce
The variations: Sesame Chicken & Creamy Garlic Italian Chicken

Well, pressure cooker frozen chicken is officially a weekly meal.  It has replaced our slow cooker meals for a while since I think we were getting a bit burned out on them over the particularly long winter season we had this year.  I had been rotating between BBQ, duck, and sesame sauce since most of the ingredients are pantry essentials or things I tend to keep on hand.  Even though the flavor profiles vary greatly, the sauce is still similar in texture in each and the supplemental veggies/sides are the same.  I decided I wanted a real change, something more drastic, to add to the options on our menu.  I considered a chicken scampi style, and that will probably be next, but I wanted something with a bit more richness this time.  I decided to push my boundaries and try a cream sauce.

I honestly had no idea how this would turn out when I first tried it.  I knew the sauce would thin out from the additional water that was released from the chicken as it cooked, but I was still worried the cream sauce would burn on the bottom.  The result - it had some delicious, almost caramelized spots, but didn't burn.  It was absolutely delicious.  I haven't tried this with frozen chicken breasts yet, and because of my concern over burning I don't want to include a time for them until I do, but I am sure with the right timing it could work too.  This is definitely at the top of our list now.  My husband described it as akin to roast chicken with gravy, and I can't disagree, but I'm not sure that captures it fully.  All I can say is that it is the essence of comfort food for our family.  Adding in the baking potatoes was fantastic and further set it apart from the other recipes, though you may need to salt them a bit when serving to bring out the flavors.

Here's how it went this time around:

Creamy Garlic Italian Chicken

1 cup chicken stock
1 tsp minced garlic
1 ½ tbsp butter
1 ½ tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tsp dried minced onion
3 small Idaho potatoes
5 boneless thighs, frozen
¼ cup large dice carrots or frozen carrots

Hardware: pressure cooker

1. Wash and then cut the potatoes into quarters.  Heat the chicken stock to a simmer and set aside. 

2. Melt the butter over medium/low heat in the base of the pressure cooker.  Add in the fresh minced garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for 1 min.  Stir in the flour to create a roux (even, golden consistency throughout) and cook stirring constantly for 2 min.  The sauce should be thick and creamy.

3. Add in the chicken stock very gradually, stirring well to combine as you go (this will help prevent lumps later).  Once it is combined, add in the frozen chicken in a single layer.  Spoon some of the sauce over each piece of chicken.  Wedge the potatoes in between the pieces of chicken, they can overlap a bit just try to get at least part of each one in some sauce.

4. Evenly spread the seasoning, salt, and dried minced onion over the top.  Seal the pressure cooker and raise the heat to medium high.  Once high pressure is reached, turn it down to the lowest level where it can maintain that pressure.  Continue to cook for 8 minutes. 

5. Release pressure according to manufacturer guidelines. After the cooker is opened, flip over the chicken and stir the vegetables. Serving suggestions: with buttered noodles, alongside garlic bread, or stir in some extra steamed veggies.  You may want to salt to taste, particularly the potatoes, when serving.


Fast from Frozen: Pressure Cooker Sesame Chicken

or the love affair grows - pressure cooker frozen chicken for those who fail to plan, or just like good food

The original recipe: Pressure Cooker Frozen Chicken in Duck Sauce
The variation: Sesame Chicken

So to say that my husband jumped on board the frozen chicken band wagon might be an understatement.  And I honestly love the fact that this method somehow turns out perfect almost every single time.  But the biggest bonus for me is that I can prep this in the cooker in 5-10 minutes and then spend some time focusing on my toddler while it cooks on its own.  She is loving being in the kitchen and helping mommy cook, I can still accommodate this by putting the pressure cooker on the back burner while helping her with her special "dish" a few feet away.  

I have been playing with different sauces to keep it fresh and different ways to keep it an easy and complete meal.  Adding more veggies was definitely a win and so was the sauce below.  I love ordering Chinese food as take-out but the greasiness of my favorite dishes (mostly batter fried chicken or shrimp) isn't always easy on my stomach, or - let's be honest - all that good for me.  This isn't the truest recipe for authentic sesame sauce but it is pretty darn close to some of our local take-out restaurants so it definitely satisfies my cravings and gives me the "fix" I need.  I did make an adjustment to the original recipe for cook time with this type of sauce, if you want to have leftovers you need to decrease the cook time to 8 minutes for frozen thighs.  With nine minutes the chicken is moist and delicious the first day but can dry out when reheating, at eight minutes it is still cooked through and is able to retain that moisture as leftovers too.  Here is how I changed things up:

Sesame Chicken

1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 ½ teaspoon chile powder
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp minced ginger
3 boneless chicken breasts or 5 boneless thighs, frozen
½ cup frozen broccoli
¼ cup large dice carrots or frozen carrots

Hardware: pressure cooker

1. Mix the sugar and cornstarch in the base of the pressure cooker. Add in the chicken stock, stir to combine, then bring to a simmer. And the remaining ingredients except for the chicken and vegetables and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the sauce.

2. You can remove a cup of the sauce to save for other uses or leave it all in the cooker. Add in the frozen chicken and vegetables, stirring and flipping to coat. Spoon a little sauce over the side of the chicken that is left facing up.

3. Seal the cooker and bring to high pressure. 
Once high pressure is reached, turn it down to the lowest level where it can maintain that pressure.  For the frozen breasts cook for 12 min once pressure is reached, for the frozen thighs cook for 8 minutes.

4. Release pressure according to manufacturer guidelines. After the cooker is opened, flip over the chicken and stir the vegetables. Serve over prepared white rice with extra sauce as desired.

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do, and make your own adjustments to suit your tastes.  Enjoy!


Fried Chicken Patty Fun

or another walk down memory lane for a childhood favorite - homemade chicken nuggets

I am kind of stuck in this personal retro throwback mode.  I loved a lot of the instant foods as a kid.  No matter what my mom would do to entice me otherwise I couldn't get enough boxed mac n cheese (new variations one and two here), powder based instant potatoes, and canned tomato soup with grilled cheese (as explored in last month's post).  A favorite among my friends that always stood out was chicken nuggets and there were truly few in my elementary school class that would pass up that hot lunch given the option, and that is where this exploration begins.

Recreating this one seemed like a bit of challenge since I do not own a meat grinder attachment for my stand mixer, but the market has begun to work in my favor and now I am able to regularly find ground chicken at the grocery store so I was excited to give it a go.  I started out making larger chicken patties that are excellent on their own or made into chicken burgers for a hand held meal (see variation at the end), but the recipe works just as well for those ever tempting little nuggets of deliciousness I so fondly recall.  It just comes down to the size and cook time so keep that in mind as you go along.  It's easy to adjust seasoning to your tastes, but you'll want to keep in mind the wet to dry ingredient ratio since going too far in one direction can give you either a gooey mess or a dried out hockey puck, and nobody wants to eat that.  For something they do want to eat, check this out and give it a go:

1 pound of ground chicken
1 quarter cup of whole milk
2/3 cup bread crumbs Italian style
2/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 quarter cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 of a small yellow onion grated
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for frying

Hardware: high edged fry pan, optional - cookie sheet

1. Mix together the milk, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Add in the ground chicken and combine with your hands. Gradually add in half of the Italian bread crumbs, half of the Panko bread crumbs, and the Parmesan cheese working it into the mixture evenly with your hands.

Toss half of the extra breadcrumbs in a bowl big enough to move one of the chicken patties around in and mix together. Form into 8 equal patties or into two inch round “nuggets.”  Put one patty in at a time and shake lightly to coat the first side, flip and repeat. Remove the patty and press both sides to help the bread crumbs stick. Place on a plate and repeat with the rest of the chicken patties, adding the remaining breadcrumbs to the bowl when it runs low. Place in the fridge while bringing oil to temp.

Bring oil to 350F or a bread cube browns in 1 min. Cook time depends on size and thickness of the patty, internal temp needs to be 165F. Flip at least every minute for even browning.  Place on a wire cooling rack if possible and salt lightly as they come out.  Test as needed for internal temp.

* For 8 patties (from 16 oz of ground chicken, so approx 2-3 oz each once all the ingredients are added) I was good with approximately 3 minutes but you will need to test this to be sure as you go. Once golden you can always toss them in the oven to finish or keep warm. 

Alternate variation: Skillet Chicken Burgers

Ingredient changes:
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp oil

Hardware changes: 
cast iron skillet, optional cookie sheet

Complete Step 1 above.

2. Form into 6 equal patties and place in the refrigerator to cool while you prep your side dishes and the cast iron skillet. Turn the oven to keep warm.

3. Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet once it is hot and swirl it around to coat. Cook the patties 3 at a time. Sear lightly and then lower the temperature some and continue to cook for about 3-5 minutes. Then flip and repeat. Once the internal temperature has reached 165F place in an oven safe dish in the oven to keep warm. Repeat the process with the second batch.

Optional topping ideas (not to be used all at once!): provolone cheese (melted on top in the oven), mayo mixed with Parmesan cheese, ranch dressing, relish, lettuce, tomato, yellow onions sauteed with the burgers in the skillet…