I want to start this blog post with an applogy for the photo. I snapped the above photo while prepping this recipe and posted it over on Instagram. I had every intention of taking a proper photo with my regular camera but when I went to grab it after the chicken was cooked I found the battery was dead and my back-up battery was no where to be found. I found it later rolling around in the back of my Jeep. It must have fallen out of my camera bag. I tried to take a finished photo with my iPhone but it just was not happening…so pardon the Instagram photo but please enjoy the recipe…
This recipe for Crock-Pot Maple Dijon Chicken came about because I found a spectacular sale on chicken thighs at my local grocery store at just 60¢ per lb. So I snatched up a couple of packages and came home and started to try and come up with some recipes to use these up.
Now normally our family cooks a lot of boneless skinless chicken breasts and drumsticks are always popular with the kids but I don’t really cook with chicken thighs all that often. I don’t know why when they are rather inexpensive and the meat is moist and tender. In fact I would rather have chicken thighs over drumsticks (less weird tendons and stuff). Maybe it is the whole dark meat is not as healthy as white meat thing or that we have been conditioned as a society to just eat boneless skinless chicken breasts. But whatever the case may be I am putting in a vote for chicken thighs more often.
But if you prefer the white meat by all means this recipe can easily be adapted to chicken breasts too. The thing to keep in mind with white meat chicken is that it can dry out in the slow cooker if it is cooked too long and there is not enough liquid in a recipe. There is just not much in the way of connective tissue in boneless skinless chicken breasts to melt down and make moist meat. If you can tolerate chicken breasts with the bone and skin you will have a much more flavorful and juicy meat.
So this recipe starts with some all-purpose flour, salt and pepper in a gallon sized zipper plastic bag (you know a Ziploc bag) in which you shake your chicken in the flour mixture to coat it.
Then you heat up some oil in a large skillet (I am partial to cast iron skillets but use what you have) and then you brown your chicken in the oil for a few minutes on each side.
I know some folks balk at having to ANY of the steps in a crock-pot recipe on the stove top and if you want to skip this step you totally can. But first, let me tell you why I opted to dredge in flour and brown instead of just putting the chicken in the slow cooker raw and adding the dijon maple sauce. Because browning the chicken creates a little crust, seals in moisture and flavor and the browning adds a different savory flavor dimension to the dish, more richness or umami if you will.
I strongly suggest you try the browning bit…it isn’t too much extra work and the flavor profile is worth it! But if you insist on no stove top prep for a crock-pot dish then skip the flouring bit and browning bit and just put your chicken in the slow cooker, whip up the sauce and spoon it over and cook per the rest of the directions.
OK now that we have sidetracked on why I brown back to the recipe….
Once all your chicken is browned up place it in a slow cooker. I personally used my 3-quart casserole crock-pot because it is honestly like one of my favorite slow cookers of all time. But you can use any 5 quart or larger (round or oval it doesn’t matter) slow cooker. The casserole crock-pot has a bigger surface area and thus I can put all the chicken in without stacking which is what I love about it.
Then in a small bowl mix together your maple syrup (the real stuff…not the fake stuff in this recipe please!), some grainy dijon mustard and then I went out and snipped a few leaves of sage and a twig of rosemary from my herb garden and rough chopped them up – about a teaspoon of each one chopped. Not exact measurements and you use use 1/2 teaspoon each dried herbs or omit the herbs altogether if you want. Again, I felt that the herbs added another flavor dimension to the dish. Plus I have herbs growing like mad and I need to use them up before winter sets in!
And now for the recipe…
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