By now, if you’ve been following along on this culinary journey of ours, you know we need meals cooked in 30ish minutes or less. Chopping for days or creating fancy sauces, all of that stuff isn’t in the cards right now. We both work full time and try to get some gym time in before picking up the kids. Without fail, the kiddos are ravenously hungry when we pick them up from school. It was especially difficult between the ages of 18 months and a little over 2 years old. They were completely hangry every day, and if you didn’t give them 10 snacks to make them stuffed before dinner, they would totally lose it and melt down. I started coming home, quickly prepping dinner, putting it on the stove or oven and then would pray our house wouldn’t burn down when I left to pick them up. I’m happy to say we’ve moved past this point, but it’s still critical to be quick about getting food on the table. Plus, we genuinely love spending time with each other, so the less time we’re in the kitchen, the more time we have to play restaurant or build this badass zoo inspired by our recent trip.
Despite needing to make quick meals, there are a lot of really gross quick meals out there…at least gross to me. This is not one of them. I don’t love frozen foods because of the high sodium content and bland flavors, and I REALLY don’t like casseroles or anything that uses a packet (Ranch dressing, soup mixes, taco seasoning, etc.). Not only does it not taste good to me, but it doesn’t feel good for my body. I end up feeling gross and bloated. Maybe it’s the preservatives? Maybe it’s the sodium? Maybe it’s mental? I don’t know…but the bottom line is I like to put things in my body that my great grandmother would recognize as food (thanks, Michael Pollan). Obviously there are a lot of exceptions to this (i.e., I’m thankful for modern agriculture and the food sciences that have given us iodized salt to eliminate goiter), but you get the spirit of Pollan’s advice.
With that said, I really don’t know if you can get much simpler than this shredded chicken with tomatoes. You sear your chicken thighs (or breasts) in a Dutch Oven for 3 minutes on each side, add a can of diced tomatoes and a 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa. If you use chicken breasts — just sear and cook for a few minutes longer.
Let it simmer for 20 minutes, flip the thighs over, and then simmer for 10 more minutes. Shred with two forks. Done. You could also do this in a slow cooker, but it’ll just take a lot longer and require some foresight to remember to do all of this stuff in the morning, which I am absolutely terrible at. I also have issues with slow cookers, but that’s a post for another day.
I used Muir Glen diced tomatoes from Whole Foods and Tostitos Simply Organic Chunky Medium Salsa from Giant because I forgot to buy it at WF. I don’t really care terribly much about the organic part — but I bought this one because it has no added sugar. I’ll save my sugar for dessert uh-thank-you-very-much.
What’s also nice about this chicken is that you can do so many things with it. I put my shredded chicken in tacos with some cilantro, sour cream, and avocados, the kids had deconstructed tacos (which basically means they dip their chicken in a huge vat of sour cream with some cheese on the side), and John put his chicken over a salad and made a bowl. Everyone can have it exactly as they wish.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8-10 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or you could do 3-4 chicken breasts if you prefer)
- 1 can diced tomatoes (I use this brand)
- 1/2 c. of whatever is your preferred salsa (spicy, tomatillo, the options are endless)
- Heat Dutch oven with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat.
- When Dutch oven starts smoking, add the chicken thighs*. Sear without touching chicken for 3 minutes per side.
- Add the diced tomatoes and salsa. Cover with lid. Turn down to medium to medium-low heat.
- Let the chicken cook about 20 minutes before turning chicken over to cook for another 10 minutes.
- Take chicken out of the Dutch oven and shred to your heart’s content with two forks.
*Wear an apron and some sunglasses. Seriously. To get a nice sear, you need a really hot Dutch oven, and when the chicken goes in it will platter all over the place. Be prepared but know it’s for the greater good.
If you needed some more evidence for how awesome this chicken is, here’s the carnage: