Cheaters’ Chicken Parm

Cheaters' Chicken Parm

That feeling when it’s almost dinner time, and you have no idea what to make and absolutely no energy with which to make it. 

It was one of “those” days last spring, and I was fresh out of spoons. I won’t bore you with all of the details, let’s just say I’d had a minor medical procedure that morning, necessitated by the fact that my hip renovation hasn’t quite lived up to its potential. So it was a sofa day. Damn shame, too, as the weather was beautiful and I’d have loved to be out in the garden. The inactivity was triggering a cascade of complaints from all my other broken body parts. So it was that I stood with the freezer door open, staring, hoping desperately for inspiration. 

I couldn’t bring myself to call for pizza (mediocre pizza being literally the only food that’s available for delivery out here in the boonies) and we’d finished the hard-cooked eggs for lunch. But days like this are why I try to keep a full freezer. None of the freezer meals appealed to me, but I did have a frozen block of leftover sauce from when I made The Best Meatballs With Sauce a few weeks earlier. There were also a couple of frozen raw chicken breasts left over from the last time I’d made Chicken & Wild Rice Soup. The fridge yielded a couple of carrots, a small stalk of broccoli, and a couple ounces of Parmesan. And the Instant Pot was just a few steps from the fridge, having been granted its own square foot of counter space in my kitchen renovation. That renovation, unlike the hip, was a resounding success.

I am one heck of a lucky woman, aren’t I? I have electricity for my freezer so I can stock up. I have an awesome kitchen and an Instant Pot. I have a Chief Taster (a.k.a. husband) who will gladly eat whatever I put in front of him. And I have good health insurance to give me the chance to make things right with my hip. Yep, I’m a glass-half-full kind of woman, even on spoon-less days. Mostly. This is a cooking blog, not a political one, but I will say, with a great deal of fervor, that everyone in this day & age should have electricity & health care. And clean water. Everyone. I remember that as of that day last March, 11% of Puerto Ricans had still been without electricity for six months. No freezers, no clean water, no sanitation. Don’t even get me started on the vast swaths of this planet where people never had those things in the first place. It’s just not right, I tell you! Okay, I’ll get down off my soapbox now and get back to cooking dinner.

Anyway, I kind of laughed at myself for bothering with pictures. I didn’t even get the parmesan in the ingredient photo. I figured it’d be one of those cobbed-together meals that are all about fuel and not enjoyment. Wrong! It turned out to be delicious! The chicken was tender, the sauce flavorful, the dishes few, and the effort nearly non-existent. And because there’s no breading or frying, it’s even good for you! I think I need to keep chicken and meatball sauce on hand all the time — I would gladly eat this again! And again, and again…

Ingredients:

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1½ pounds (680 g) frozen raw chicken breasts

2 cups Italian Meatball Sauce (or substitute your favorite red sauce)

1 cup unsalted chicken broth

1 medium carrot 

1 small stalk broccoli

1¾ oz (50 g) fresh parmesan cheese

Preparation:

1.) Place the chicken broth and the frozen breasts in the bottom of the Instant Pot’s inner pot. Place a trivet on top. (Of course, you don’t have to cook the chicken in an Instant Pot if you don’t want to. Wrap tightly in foil and bake at 350º F (177º C) for an hour, or just use pre-cooked chicken leftovers.)

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2.) Place a shallow pan on the trivet, and the frozen block of sauce in the pan. Place the lid (or some foil, if your pan doesn’t have a metal lid) on the pan. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid and set it on either the “Manual” or “Poultry” setting for 20 minutes at high pressure. It took about 15 minutes to come to pressure. At the end of the cook time, I gave it 5 minutes of natural pressure release before carefully opening the steam vent and opening the lid. 

3.) While the chicken and sauce cook, cut up the veggies into bite-size pieces. I like to use the broccoli stalk, too. Its flavor is a bit milder than the florets and quite delicious. You can pare the tough outer skin to remove any bitterness and just use the tender inside. To split a floret, just cut through the stem of it, then pull the halves apart. 

 

 

4.) Finely grate the parmesan; set aside. Line a small rimmed sheet pan (mine’s a quarter-sheet pan) with foil.

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5.) When the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to the sheet pan. Pour the sauce over it, shower with the grated cheese, and pop it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese. 

 

 

6.) Remove the trivet from the Instant Pot and dump the veggies into the hot broth. Turn the pot off, then press the “Sauté” button. Just a few minutes in the pot while the cheese melts under the broiler will be enough to cook the veggies, then you can strain them out. Some of the sauce and cheese slid off the chicken, so I spooned it over the vegetables. Yum!

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Cheaters' Chicken Parm

Ingredients

1½ pounds (680 g) frozen raw chicken breasts

2 cups Italian Meatball Sauce (or substitute your favorite red sauce)

1 cup unsalted chicken broth

1 medium carrot

1 small stalk broccoli

1¾ oz (50 g) fresh parmesan cheese

Directions

1.) Place the chicken broth and the frozen breasts in the bottom of the Instant Pot’s inner pot. Place a trivet on top. (Of course, you don’t have to cook the chicken in an Instant Pot if you don’t want to. Wrap tightly in foil and bake at 350º F (177º C) for an hour, or just use pre-cooked chicken leftovers.)

2.) Place a shallow pan on the trivet, and the frozen block of sauce in the pan. Place the lid (or some foil, if your pan doesn’t have a metal lid) on the pan. Close and lock the Instant Pot lid and set it on either the “Manual” or “Poultry” setting for 20 minutes at high pressure. It took about 15 minutes to come to pressure. At the end of the cook time, I gave it 5 minutes of natural pressure release before carefully opening the steam vent and opening the lid.

3.) While the chicken and sauce cook, cut up the veggies into bite-size pieces. I like to use the broccoli stalk, too. Its flavor is a bit milder than the florets and quite delicious. You can pare the tough outer skin to remove any bitterness and just use the tender inside. To split a floret, just cut through the stem of it, then pull the halves apart.

4.) Finely grate the parmesan; set aside. Line a small rimmed sheet pan (mine’s a quarter-sheet pan) with foil.

5.) When the chicken is cooked through, transfer it to the sheet pan. Pour the sauce over it, shower with the grated cheese, and pop it under the broiler for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese.

6.) Remove the trivet from the Instant Pot and dump the veggies into the hot broth. Turn the pot off, then press the “Sauté” button. Just a few minutes in the pot while the cheese melts under the broiler will be enough to cook the veggies, then you can strain them out. Some of the sauce and cheese slid off the chicken, so I spooned it over the vegetables. Yum!

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