A Recipe for Batch Cooking
There has been a theme with a lot of my nutrition clients lately, which revolves around meal planning. We even recently did a private cooking class for a group of athletes requesting some instruction on how to batch cook for the week. It is often the case that people know what to eat, but actually figuring out how to implement that into a busy lifestyle is a whole different story. In general, I find that people are pretty good at scheduling in meetings, doctors appointments, family events etc. but for some reason, scheduling time to plan and prepare meals never makes it onto the calendar.
There are many different techniques to successfully meal plan and I work with people one one one to determine which works best for them. However, my personal favorite way to ensure healthy meals are available is to batch cook. This means that I spend a few hours on a given day (I usually do it on Sundays) and make a few dishes, or components of dishes that I can use all week. Now I know some people really don’t like leftovers or do not ever have 3 or so hours on a Sunday to spend cooking and would rather do their meal prep on weeknights. For those of us (myself included) that typically work through the dinner hour, having something already prepared is crucial in ensuring a healthy meal that is within a reasonable budget.
When I batch cook I usually prepare 2-3 meals that will hold up well throughout the week. They always include a protein, which for me is usually chicken, beans, lentils or soy curls. I love fish, but it is not ideal for re-heating and I don’t typically eat red meat, although that could work. I also usually make some kind of grain or starch, such as quinoa, polenta, sweet potatoes or brown rice. Lastly, I prepare some veggies, which most often is a kale salad of some sort (gets even better as the week goes on!) or roasted veggies. Sometimes these things are all done separately and then I can assemble into simple meals throughout the week, such as a bowl. Other times, I prepare full meals that I can portion out and eat all week. Usually I will make one thing I can eat for dinner for about 3-4 nights and one thing I can eat for lunch for 3-4 days. This allows some flexibility for making those other things I like during the week, such as fish, going out to eat, or grabbing something from the deli at New Seasons. I recently came across the following recipe in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit magazine and thought it was a perfect fit for my weekly batch cooking. A couple of the ingredients were a little tricky to find and I had to make a trip to my local Asian supermarket. But as with any recipe, you can adapt and if you can’t find an ingredient, don’t even worry about it. I think the kombu and sichuan peppercorns, in particular would not have been missed. Another bonus of this recipe is that you are left with a delicious homemade chicken stock. The recipe says to drain it off and discard but definitely save it for another use! Happy Cooking!
Sichuan Chicken with Rice Noodles and Kale
from Bon Appetit Magazine, August 2015
1½ bunches scallions, divided
1 8-inch piece dried kombu
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
3 star anise pods
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
1 3½–4-pound chicken
8 ounces dried thin rice noodles (not vermicelli)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
½ bunch Tuscan kale, tough stems removed, leaves very thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon furikake seasoning, plus more for serving
Chili oil (for serving)
Cut 1 bunch scallions into 1″ pieces; thinly slice remaining bunch of scallions and set aside.
Bring 12 cups water to a brisk simmer in a large stockpot and add scallion pieces, kombu, ginger, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, ¼ cup soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp. salt; cook until kombu is softened, 10–15 minutes. Add chicken to pot and reduce heat so liquid is at a very gentle simmer. Poach chicken, uncovered, until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of breast registers 160°, 40–45 minutes.
Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Meanwhile, increase heat to medium-high and bring poaching liquid to a boil; cook until reduced by half, 30–45 minutes. Fish out scallions, ginger, and star anise from pot with a slotted spoon and discard. Add noodles to poaching liquid and cook according to package instructions. Drain and toss in a large bowl with 1 tsp. sesame oil.
Combine kale, sugar, a pinch of salt, and remaining 1 tsp. sesame oil in a medium bowl and massage kale, rubbing between your fingers, until softened and shiny, about 30 seconds. Add vinegar, rice noodles, reserved sliced scallions, 1 Tbsp. furikake, and remaining 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and toss to combine; season with salt.
Remove skin and bones from chicken; discard. Slice or shred meat.
Serve with noodles, drizzled with chili oil and sprinkled with more furikake. Do Ahead: Chicken can be poached 1 day ahead; let cool, cover and chill chicken and liquid separately. Bring to room temperature before slicing. Noodle mixture can be made 3 hours ahead; store at room temperature. Moisten with more soy sauce and vinegar before serving