Spring Chicken!

I've had a love/hate relationship with chicken breasts. They made dinner easy, but they just didn't excite me. It seemed impossible to find juicy, fat chicken breasts that were full of flavor. But, I recently decided to only buy local and humanely-raised, antibiotic-free meat and poultry, and yes it costs a bit more, but wow, what a difference the quality makes! Not only are the chicken breasts about double the size of the usual grocery store brands, but they taste different, i.e., better. Even after 8 hours in the slow cooker and another few minutes on the stove, it's the juiciest, most delectable chicken I've ever eaten. Seriously.
If you aren't convinced, or just can't switch to locally-raised, antibiotic-free birds, this recipe still makes any kind of chicken breast sing (chicken thighs would work, too), and it's an easy, no-fuss dinner that tastes amazing. The slow cooker does most of the work -- you just have to reduce the sauce and maybe toast some sesame seeds for a few minutes on the stove if you feel like it. Add some broccoli and cooked brown rice (like this), and you can leave your Chinese takeout menu for another day. (Note: You should be able to find all of the ingredients at your grocery store.)

Slow-Cooker Hoisin Chicken
1-2 TBS sesame oil
3-4 large raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
(if you're using the smaller grocery store kind, you can probably fit up to 6)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
3 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 TBS soy sauce
4 TBS hoisin sauce
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1 TBS corn starch
1 TBS cold water
2 cups broccoli florets
1 TBS toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Minimal MESS/ingredients/clean-up: Category 2

To Do:

  • Lightly coat the bottom of your slow cooker with sesame oil.
  • Place chicken breasts inside slow cooker, and try not to overlap too much. 
  • In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, rice vinegar, the 1/4 cup of water, garlic, ginger, soy sauce and 2 TBS of the hoisin, then pour over the chicken breasts. Sprinkle with a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Slow cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. 
  • Remove chicken pieces (which will be falling apart) from slow cooker and set aside. 
  • Strain out the sauce from the pot into a large skillet, over medium-high heat.
  • Mix together the corn starch and the TBS of cold water until smooth, then gradually stir the mixture into the sauce until blended, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil for a 1-2 minutes until the liquid starts to thicken. 
  • Still stirring, lower the heat and add in the rest of the hoisin and another pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Stir in the broccoli florets and the chicken and cover. Simmer until heated through and broccoli is tender, about 3-5 minutes. 
  • Gently stir once more to combine sauce, chicken and broccoli, and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  • Serve with brown rice or Asian noodles, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Yum!


Chicken image at top transferred from Flickr to Wikimedia Commons by User:MaybeMaybeMaybe