In most aspects of my life, I am relatively organized. Not on the level of Marie Kondo, but still: I like everything in order. So, it’s somewhat surprising that I’m a reluctant meal planner and prepper. (The two are related but different and you can do one, but not the other, both, or neither.) It comes down to this: Having everything planned out and pre-prepped? Nice in theory. In actuality? It’s a deterrent to the impromptu kitchen sessions that feel like a form of therapy for me. I prefer to wing it most of the time. That said, there are a few things I like to always, always have at the ready. These are: some kind of grain (like quinoa, farro, or, recently fonio), frozen peas, and chicken — often this marinated, thinly pounded chicken from Giada de Laurentiis’ new cookbook.
Lemon and Oregano Pounded Chicken Is a Meal Prep Essential
Chicken is my go-to protein because it’s cheap, easy, and healthy. And, so long as I mix up the ways in which I eat it, I don’t really get bored of it. That’s especially true of this lemon and oregano chicken, which is just the right amount of flavorful.
It takes some planning — you’ll want to marinate it for at least four hours — but it’s mostly hands-off. I might marinate and cook it on the weekend or I might just get the marinade going on Sunday night and then cook it at some point on Monday when I need a break from my work day.
It can work in so many different ways: on salads, in sandwiches or lettuce wraps, dipped in some kind of sauce for a protein-packed 3 pm snack. It’s basically a guarantee that I’ll eat a healthy lunch all week long. And sometimes it creeps into dinner, too. Recently, for example, I threw together a couple chicken tacos with sliced avocado, leftover mushrooms, and a squeeze of lime juice.
Excerpted from EAT BETTER, FEEL BETTER by Giada De Laurentiis. Copyright © 2021 by GDL Foods Inc. Published by Rodale Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, from 2 lemons
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, from ½ lemon
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each)
- Combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, and salt in a large resealable plastic bag. Massage the bag to combine the ingredients. Add the chicken breasts, seal the bag, and massage the marinade evenly into the chicken. Press the air out of the bag and reseal. Pound the chicken breasts to flatten them to ½ to ¾ inch thick. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 10 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking.
- Heat a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in one layer over medium-high heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the chicken to the pan, smooth side down, and place something heavy on top to press the breasts onto the hot surface. (A brick wrapped in aluminum foil or a small cast-iron skillet with a piece of foil between it and the chicken works well here.)
- Cook the chicken for 5 minutes, or until deep golden brown on the first side. Remove the weight and flip the chicken. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, or until the breasts are firm to the touch and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 160°F. Transfer to a storage container. Add ⅓ cup water to the pan to deglaze and pour the juices over the chicken. Refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for a month.