I'm on a very annoying and very necessary mission.
The mission is to reduce waste, and you're joining me today. I HATE food waste. I hate all waste, really, but I also know that it's a part of life (don't even get me started on the unnecessary packaging that is involved in having children), and since I'm not yet ready to go full no-waste (have you seen documentaries about those people? It's inspiring and also seems hard), food waste is really where I focus my efforts, mainly because it's easily avoidable compared to other things. A little bit of thought and creativity can go a long way, and today we're tackling condiments. Specifically, salsa! I was rummaging around the fridge a few weeks ago and realized we had four types of salsa. Some in little ramekins from takeout (you can use that stuff you know...) and a few jars with an inch or two of salsa. Not quite enough to put out for chips and dip, but not bad or old at all.
By the way, expiration dates literally have nothing to do with food going bad or being unsafe, even with meat and dairy. Literally nothing. They are dates used for the producer to "talk" to the grocer and to give the consumer (you) some information about when the food might not be perfect anymore. Imperfect food is not unsafe to eat, and usually doesn't even taste different. This is not my opinion, this is a fact. Food is bad when it has a strange smell, grows mold or something else, or has a physical sign that it is bad. You of course are in charge of when you throw things out, but throwing things out because they have passed an arbitrary date is willful waste, so keep that in mind when doing purges and cleaning out. If nothing else, it's a money saver to not constantly throw away things you purchase.
SO WITH THAT, I had all of this salsa and no plan for it. And I had chicken, and I always have rice. So I made this super duper quick seared chicken, reduced the salsa together into a sauce, and served it over rice in half an hour. I've made this several times since with other salsa, and the fun thing about this is that it tastes different but familiar each time. Salsa usually involves a base of onions and garlic which add tons of flavor without any chopping on your part. I've also chopped up extra onions, peppers, and random veggies (see: no waste!) and simmered them in the sauce, and they turn out delicious as well with zero effort. This is all about use-what-you-have, with delicious results. It feels GREAT to get a few items out of the fridge without throwing them straight in the trash.
Start by heating a skillet to medium-high with a drizzle of oil for the chicken. I use the same combination of spices every time I make Mexican-style chicken: onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Sometimes I add cayenne or smoked paprika or a salt blend like seasoned salt, but these five ingredients are always in the mix.
When the skillet is hot, add the chicken and sprinkle it all over with the spices. You can sprinkle them on all at once or one at a time, whatever is easiest. These are thin-cut chicken breasts, so they cook in about 4 minutes on each side. Use any kind of chicken you want, and cook it until just barely done since we'll add it back to the sauce after cooking.
While the chicken is cooking, grab some stock and your collection of random salsas. The more diverse the better - there are so many different flavors of salsa in the world so this dish tastes slightly different every time in a great way.
When the chicken has seared on both sides (again, even if its not quiiite cooked all the way through), remove it from the skillet to rest while you make the rest of the sauce.
Turn the heat on the skillet down to medium-low and add the salsa and chicken stock. Stir to scrape up any chicken bits from the bottom of the pan.
Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes or so just to reduce and thicken slightly. While the sauce is simmering, slice or dice the chicken. When the sauce has reduced, add it back to the skillet for just a minute or two to heat through, or longer if it isn't fully cooked. Taste the sauce and add a few pinches of salt if it seems a bit bland.
And, dinner! I make rice cooked in chicken stock while the chicken and sauce are cooking so that the entire dish is done in about half an hour. I made plain chicken and sauce this time, but adding extra veggies in is delicious as well!
Avoid waste, eat tasty food, save money. Everyone wins.
Quickest Weeknight Salsa Chicken
- 1 pound thin-cut chicken breasts
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups salsa any kind/s you like
- 1 cup chicken stock
- Preheat a skillet to medium-high heat with some olive oil. Combine the spices in a small dish with your fingers, then sprinkle all over both sides of the chicken.
- When the skillet is hot, add the chicken pieces and cook for about 4 minutes on each side, flipping once, until the chicken is golden brown and nearly all the way cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to rest.
- Add the salsa and stock to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium low. Stir and scrape the bottom of the skillet, then let the sauce reduce for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice or dice the chicken.
- Return the chicken and any juices to the skillet. Stir to warm the chicken and finish cooking for 1-2 minutes more.
- Serve the chicken over rice. Enjoy!