With the arrival of the new year, like many of you I am looking to recalibrate my food choices to make up for the over indulgence of holiday goodies. One of my go-to ingredients is boneless, skinless chicken breast. I’m also trying to make good use of my slow cooker, so I have more time to shovel snow! I’d be joking if we hadn’t received 13+ inches of snow in the last 2 days with about 6 more inches to arrive over the next 24 hours. I guess that will be my cardio workout.
Before the snow storm hit, I made my way to my local Sam’s Club to stock up on pantry items. You can always find some really good deals on quality ingredients, and I love discovering new products. One of the new product lines that Sam’s Club is carrying in 2014 is NatureRaised Farms® Boneless, Skinless Chicken. If you’ve never heard of or used NatureRaised Farms® brand before, their products are quite remarkable.
I always prefer to focus on fewer, high-quality ingredients in a recipe to get the best flavor and nutrients possible. That goes for any recipe, sweet or savory. The NatureRaised Farms® chickens are vegetarian-fed, antibiotic-free and cage-free. There are no fillers, preservatives or artificial colors either. So I picked up a few packages of the Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts to make a big ole batch of Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio, Family-Style. If you’d like to try the NatureRaised Farms® product before you buy, a select number of participating Sam’s Clubs will have in-store product demonstrations on January 4. Or for more information about NatureRaised Farms®, visit their website or find them on Facebook and Twitter.
The Origin of Chicken Vesuvio
It may surprise you that Chicken Vesuvio was born in Chicago. It’s an Italian-American dish typically made from chicken on the bone and wedges of potato. Both are sautéed with garlic, oregano, olive oil and white wine, then baked until the chicken’s skin becomes crisp. The dish would often be garnished with green peas for color. In many Chicago restaurants, you’ll often find the “Vesuvio” technique applied to other foods like Steak Vesuvio or Vesuvio Potatoes. The origins of the dish are widely attributed to the Vesuvio Restaurant, which operated on Chicago’s Wacker Drive in the 1930’s. The original recipe can be a bit heavy, because of the richness of certain ingredients, including olive oil, white wine and lots of potatoes.
Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio
I wanted to make a Chicken Vesuvio that offered a healthier option by using a healthier cut of chicken (skinless) and lower-sodium broth, as well as replacing some of the potatoes with other nutrient-rich vegetables that pack a real flavor punch, like edamame, sun-dried tomatoes and sweet peppers. And by using a crock pot to cook the dish instead of the oven, it uses far less oil, chicken broth and wine. That makes this Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio more moist and delicious.
I always find it easier to execute a new recipe by getting all of my ingredients in order: mise en place. “Mise en place” is a French phrase which means literally “putting in place,” as in set up. In addition to the protein-rich, all-natural chicken, the other star ingredients of Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio are:
Use a sharp chef’s knife to Julienne the peppers and sun-dried tomatoes, as well as quarter the potatoes. Julienning is a simple technique that cuts food into short, thin strips. It not only looks great (we eat with our eyes first!) but also reduces the cooking time, while ensuring even cooking.
To get started, preheat a frying pan – lightly brushed with canola oil – on medium high heat. I used the sautée and browning setting on my 3-in-1 slow cooker, so I had one less dirty pan to wash. Score another point for Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio! Take a barbecue or pastry brush and lightly coat one side of each chicken breast with canola oil. Then season the first side of the chicken breasts with a pinch each of salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Put the chicken breasts in the prepared pan, seasoned side down. Then repeat with canola oil and seasonings for the remaining sides of each chicken breast. Brown both sides of the chicken breasts (about 6 minutes per side).
Place the potatoes, edamame, peppers and sun-dried tomatoes inside the crock pot. Add the onion, garlic and remaining salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Pour in the chicken broth and white wine. [Because this dish requires less than a cup of white wine, I recommend picking a bottle of your favorite white wine to pair with this dinner. After pouring the half cup for the recipe, save the rest of the bottle to have with dinner!]
Gently stir until the ingredients are combined. Top the vegetables with the chicken breasts and cook for 3 hours on HIGH. You see, Crock Pot Chicken Vesuvio is really that easy!
Lightly coat a frying pan with canola oil and place on a stovetop burner, set at medium high. Warm the pan for a minute; you want it hot to properly sear the chicken breasts.
Pat the chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. Using a barbecue or pastry brush, lightly coat the top of each breast with a thin layer of canola oil. Season with one pinch each of sea salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Place the chicken breasts in the hot frying pan, seasoned side down, and cook for about 6 minutes.
Immediately coat the remaining side of each chicken breast with canola oil. Again, season with one pinch each of sea salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning. Cover the pan with its lid until you're ready to turn the chicken breasts. After you turn the chicken breasts, cook for another 6 minutes, or until browned on both sides.
Place the potatoes, edamame, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, onion, garlic and remaining sea salt, black pepper and Italian seasonings in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add chicken broth and white wine. Gently stir to immerse vegetables evenly in the broth-wine mixture. This will help the vegetables to properly steam and cook evenly. Top the vegetables with the chicken breasts.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 3 to 3 1/2 hours (or LOW for 6 to 7 hours), or until chicken and potatoes are tender.
Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving plate. Top with juices from the slow cooker. Sprinkle with fresh parsley, if desired.