As a working mom and wife, squeezing in time to cook a good meal around a full-time work schedule, Little League baseball, family gatherings and other household obligations is always challenging.
I have found resorting to the slow cooker as a wonderful and usually easy solution, especially to quickly overcoming being greeted at the door after a long day at work with hungry little (and one not-so-little) mouths to feed.
Through the years, I have found some great slow cooker recipes. But even more often, I have learned to adapt some recipes myself, finding ways to make minor changes and come up with my own tasty slow-cooker creations.
As I perused the Taste of Home Cookbook looking for the perfect recipe to prepare for this article, I stumbled upon a "Pecan Chicken" dish that not only sounded yummy, it also was one I believed could be easily adapted for my slow cooker.
The first thing I knew I would have to do was find a substitution for the buttermilk ingredient. I avoid using milk products in the slow cooker because they tend to break down when cooking over a long period of time.
The original recipe had called for a buttermilk and egg combination to help coat the chicken with the pecan and bread crumb breading.
Pecan Chicken with Chutney
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1 cup finely chopped pecans
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (6 ounces each)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
PEACH MANGO CHUTNEY:
2 cups sliced peeled fresh or frozen peaches, thawed
1 cup mango chutney
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.
In another shallow bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk and hot pepper sauce.
In a third bowl, combine the pecans and bread crumbs.
Flatten the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Coat the chicken with flour mixture, then dip in egg mixture and coat with pecan mixture.
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook chicken in butter and oil for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, or until juices run clear.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the peaches and mango chutney. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through.
Serve the chutney with the chicken.
Yield: 6 servings (1-3/4 cups chutney).
Easy enough. Water would do the trick. While I knew the substitution certainly would not be as rich and probably not quite as tasty, water definitely would work better in the Crock and would simultaneously reduce the calorie count. In my opinion, that is never a bad idea!
As per the recipe, I prepared three mixing bowls - one with the flour, salt and pepper; another with chopped pecans and bread crumbs; and the third with water mixed with hot sauce. Regarding the hot sauce, I followed the recipe and used 1/8 teaspoon. In retrospect, doubling that amount would have worked better, bringing a bit more "zing" to the dish while still not overpowering.
Next, the recipe called for flattening the chicken, which is optional. As my own additive, I sprinkled it with poultry seasoning, a spice I always like to use when preparing poultry of any type.
Pleasantly, preparation was quick and easy. (A great detail when preparing a meal for the slow cooker in the morning before work.) Simply coat the chicken with the flour mixture, then dip it into the water-hot sauce mixture and finally coat it with the pecan mixture.
I prefer to not chop the pecans too finely, but rather leave them in approximately 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces because I find that locks in a bit more favor.
Then it's into the Crock.
Use about a tablespoon of oil under each piece, to prevent sticking, and don't add any extra water to the pot. Slow cookers, by design, allow food to cook in its own succulent juices. Throughout the day, the food will give off enough juices to keep the meal from drying out. Adding extra fluids sometimes makes it too moist or watery.
Cooking time is about 4 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low.
Before serving, you may prepare a quick, easy chutney dressing called for in the original recipe.
That, of course, is optional, but can add a nice sweet-sour accent to the meal.
If slow cooking isn't your preference, the original recipe calls for pan frying over medium heat, and that type of preparation would allow for a quicker turnaround of about 20 to 30 minutes.
Either way, pecan chicken is an easy and tasty meal that is sure to please the entire family.