My lovely sister, Hilary, who also loves to cook, wrote on my Facebook wall a couple of weeks ago asking if I took recipe requests. She said she has been wanting a Chinese recipe that can be made in the slow cooker, but she wanted me to do the experimenting for her! I'm not a huge fan of Chinese food, but there are a few dishes I like, so I did some searching online for recipes.
I found this recipe on a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking. The blog author set out to make a meal in her slow cooker everyday in 2008. And she posted the recipes everyday. I didn't discover the blog until recently, but she has kept her archives for reference. I looked up her list of dishes and found one called Chinese Lemon Chicken. Here is my (very slightly) amended version of it.
Slow Cooker Chinese Lemon Chicken with Broccoli
5 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
¾ cup flour
2 tbsp kosher salt
1 can (12 oz.) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed
6 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
6 tbsp ketchup
1 large head broccoli, chopped into florets (or 1 lb. bag frozen florets)
White rice, cooked
Cut chicken into large chunks. Dredge in flour and shake off excess. Brown chicken in a skillet with a bit of olive oil. The chicken does not have to be cooked through; just browned on the outside.
Place into crockpot. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl and pour over the top of chicken pieces. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
When chicken is done, steam broccoli on stovetop or microwave until tender, but still a bit crunchy. Add to slow cooker and stir to coat.
Serve chicken and broccoli over rice, drizzle with remaining sauce.
Makes 6 servings.
The blog author didn't say how many servings her recipe made, so I assumed it was four. I needed about six servings, as I was taking this to some friends who recently had a baby. I thought it would be easy to make a big batch and take some to them and save some for us. That's the beauty of having a large slow cooker! So I changed the amount of chicken. The chicken I get (at Sam's Club) is huge. Really quite large. So if yours are more normal sized or on the small side, you might want to use six.
The broccoli was my addition. The Chinese dishes that I do like are the ones with broccoli in them. I thought broccoli would go well with this, so I added that. I didn't cook the broccoli in the slow cooker because I had no idea how long it would take and I didn't want to overcook it. I didn't want to take mushy broccoli to our friends. I also didn't think it was necessary for it to cook in the sauce. So it worked out really well to steam it (I use the microwave) and add it just before serving.
Since I used more chicken and was adding broccoli, I doubled the sauce from the original recipe. We did have sauce left over, but I thought that was better than not having enough.
I am generally not a fan of slow cooker recipes that require browning or sauteeing on the stovetop before adding to the slow cooker. Sometimes it kind of defeats the purpose of slow cooking, I think. It was a bit of work in this recipe; I had to do it in batches because I couldn't fit all of the chicken in my pan at once. But I think it was worth it. You definitely want a nice browned surface on the chicken. Otherwise it won't soak up the lemon sauce as well. That could easily be done the night before, refrigerated, then put in the slow cooker in the morning.
It is important not to let this dish overcook in the slow cooker. The chicken dries out easily. Even though I had it on "warm" our chicken got a little dry while we were driving the rest of it over to our friends'. And commenters on the original blog said that the sauce gets brown and tastes bitter if left to cook too long.
We really enjoyed this dish. I am so glad Hilary asked me to look up a Chinese slow cooker recipe. Thanks Hil!
Browning the chicken on the stove before adding it to the slow cooker. Kind of a pain, but worth it in the end.