I've been using my slow cookers (yes, plural) like crazy this summer, and I love it! Last night, I took a classic Italian dish and made it in the slow cooker. I decided on Parmesan chicken, but didn't have any bread crumbs on hand. I love using Panko, which are crispy crumbs you can find in the Asian food section. We were also running low on bread, so rather than use all we had left to make crumbs, I made do with what I had and used pretzels! You could "crumb" them in the food processor, but I have three small boys, so I just put the pretzels in a plastic bag and turned the kids loose with a rolling pin. Instant crumbs. Cracker crumbs would also work. Just use whatever you have in your pantry!
The grown-ups and thekids loved this dish. The kids weren't so sure about chicken in spaghetti sauce at first, but they were soon asking for seconds. The only thing I may try differently next time is to brown the crumb-covered chicken in a little olive oil before putting it into the slow cooker. This may help crisp it up a bit. The crust was very good, though, and I actually really liked it with pretzels. The best thing about it, though, is that it cooked away all day while I drove the boys to swimming lessons and to my parents' house in town for a little visit. There's nothing like coming home and walking into an amazing-smelling kitchen with dinner ready!
Slow cooker Parmesan chicken with pretzel crust
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (you can use breasts if you prefer)
1 1/2 cups pretzel crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups shredded Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese (or use an Italian or pizza blend)
4 cups marinara sauce (canned is fine!)
Pour olive oil into your slow cooker crock. Spread around to grease well. In a medium-sized bowl, combine crumbs, grated Parmesan, herbs and spices. In a small bowl, beat egg.
Dip each piece of chicken into the beaten egg, then dip into the crumb mixture to coat all sides well. Arrange on the bottom of the slow cooker crock. Spread any remaining crumb mixture over the top of the chicken pieces. Sprinkle 1 cup of the shredded cheese on top. Reserve the other cup of cheese.
Pour marinara sauce over the top. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until chicken is completely cooked through. Turn slow cooker to warm setting. Sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese on top, replace lid, and let warm until cheese melts. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.