I generally try to avoid frozen foods, but when I’m burned out in the kitchen, the first place I turn to is Trader Joe’s.
I know they have an amazing selection in the freezer, but I’m really only interested in two things: the orange chicken and the teriyaki chicken. Both are only $5 per bag.
First, I’d rather someone else make these two specific items than for me to make them at home. Second, I’d rather buy at least the orange chicken this way and bake it instead of heading off for take-out and picking up a deep fried, over-sauced version of the exact same dish.
I prefer the orange chicken to the teriyaki because I’m fat and love meats/cheeses lovingly embraced by batter/breading. There are 320 calories per serving (approximately, but not always, 5 servings to a bag) and a serving really isn’t much on the plate. If I have some wiggle room, I’ll go two servings; if not, one and a half. Lay the pieces out on a sheet pan, blast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping once if you can, and you’ll have little nuggets of chicken that are a good enough to stand-in for the double-fried stuff you find at Asian chicken joints. Add the sauce, a bunch of scallions and it’s a wrap.
Alternatively, I’ll use the Trader Joe’s BBQ Chicken Teriyaki on days where I need something lighter and less batteriffic. It’s 150 calories per serving and has 3.5 servings in a bag. I add veggies and a little bit of rice to stretch the meal into four solid portions.
For the dish above, I let the frozen strips of chicken sit out for a half hour to soften up. I cut them into bite-size chunks; then I halved 8 oz. of whole baby crimini mushrooms so they’d be a similar size. To finish prep, I tossed two servings of rice in the rice cooker and separated and halved the leaves of four baby bok choi heads.
You liven up the frozen chicken by building flavor, but it’s all very easy: With a little bit of oil in the pan over medium heat, saute 1/2 a shallot and 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, both minced, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the mushroom and a generous pinch of salt; cook for 3-5 minutes until most of the water has cooked out of the mushrooms and the pan is dry. If you have it, deglaze the pan with a splash of mirin and add the chicken. Cover with a lid and turn the heat to medium-low, allowing the steam to bring the chicken to temperature. When the chicken is ready, mix in the raw bok choi. The heat will wilt the thin pieces. Finish with the teriyaki sauce and dig in.
If you do it this way, this one makes four portions. The orange chicken is best fresh from the oven, but the teriyaki is perfect packed up and ready for the next day’s lunch. Clearly, it doesn’t suffice for going out to actual Chinese/Japanese (Vietnamese/Thai) restaurants, but if I’m not eating out every day, this is a solid way to split the difference.