'Dinner For One' Conundrum: Storing Chicken Thighs
Hey all, I live with two roommates, but we cook and eat our own food (sad, I know). Because of this, I always cringe when I'm buying 1-2 pounds of meat just to serve myself.
My conundrum is chicken thighs. I have four. I want to eat one, maybe two, for dinner tonight. How should I handle this? Obviously, cooking all four would be the most time-efficient and logical (the expiration date is October 24), and we all know chicken leftovers serve many purposes.
A note about preparation: Baking and broiling are out -- the mice in my Brooklyn apartment frequent the oven (ughh). I have a grill pan and various stir-frying pans.
Should I cook just one thigh? Cook them all? How should I cook them for max versatility (I.e. leftovers) and ease (I.e. I can't be cooking for hours)? How should I store the leftovers? How long will they last in the fridge?
I'm a new cook, and I know most 'Hounds are experts, so thanks for taking a moment to review the basics for me!
Oh, and yeah, lesson learned: Food should be shared!
I'd gently braise them on the stovetop, and cook them all. There are so many ways to use up the leftovers!
Thighs take longer to cook, so they're different than say, searing chicken breasts until they're just done. Braising will make the thighs tender, and they'll still be juicy.
So sear them to get some color, then add liquid, seasoning and your other ingredients. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes to an hour (you could go a bit longer if you have the time, but keep the heat low).
The leftovers will last 5-7 days max.
I cook for two, but meat or chicken only for my husband. I buy a family pack of chicken cutlets and put each one in a sandwich size ziplock. Make sure you squeeze all the air out before freezing. I date each bag with a sharpie and stack them in the freezer. If you want to marinate, just add the marinade straight to the ziplock, reseal, and put it in a bowl in the fridge just in case it leaks.
i'm also in the wrap-each-individually-and-freeze camp. assuming you have the space in your freezer, it's more economical to buy larger packages, and easy to thaw one at a time as you need it. i do the same thing with ground beef - when i find organic grass-fed on sale (which is the only ground beef i'll eat), i buy a couple of pounds, portion it out into patties, wrap each one in waxed paper and freeze them in labeled ziplocs.
Depending on what you want to do with them, I'd go for one of two ways. The first is to poach them (save the cooking liquid for soup!), the second is to fry them in a bit of olive oil on medium low heat until nice and cruchy on the outside (cover for the first five minutes of cooking).
Let them cool completely, and then you can wrap them and freeze them in single serving portions.
As an aside - I shared apartments for over 15 years and always did my own cooking. Sharing cooking with room-mates can be a huge hassle, between different cooking styles and talents, food restrictions, schedules and tastes. The people I know who tried it inevitably ended up with one person doing 90% of the cooking.
If you have freezer space, the best thing to do would be to cook the entire recipe, package it up into individual portions and freeze. I find that it's time-consumingly-fiddly to make one single anything - chicken thigh, breast or whatever - so why cook 4 times when you can cook once? If you don't want to finish the entire dish - let's say some ingredients should be added at the last minute for texture or flavour - just take it to that point and freeze. Thaw whenever you want and finish it just before serving. MAKE SURE YOU LABEL EVERYTHING thoroughly with everything: name of dish, date, what is in it and what needs to be added to it.
i would approach it just a wee bit different. I would cook them all at once while they are fresh. then eat the 1-2 and freeze the other 2-3. Then when you want meal #2+ you reheat versus defrost/cook.
For a prep, braising is always an option with thighs, they handle low and slow really well. Some veggies, some wine, some stock and simmer for a couple of hours.