Pour and Go Creamy Chicken Scampi

or taking the long way home to a rich, savory meal.

You should know - there are several times of year when I fall into an all out love affair with my slow cooker.  Right now the combination of cold weather, busy days, and holiday festivities certainly makes this particular time of year a "perfect storm" for the affair to begin.  Best part?  It's a natural stress reducer.  This tendency plays perfectly with a lower food budget so it eases a bit of that stress that those of us who like giving gifts a little too much get right about now.  And for those of us over-scheduled between family, friends, and religious festivities of various sorts it simplifies dinner and the time allocated to it so that it is a more enjoyable part of the day.  Not that I'm speaking from experience on both of those points or anything..  

But I don't need to play up the amazing qualities of the slow cooker all day, if you haven't dusted yours off recently here's a perfect opportunity to pull it out.  It's not just for stews, chili, and soups.  You can make a delicious, rich meal any day of the week that has that touch of gourmet flair without even being in the house.  All it takes is a little planning, a few minutes in the morning, and in this case - a love of chicken. I must confess - the recipe calls for herb jelly, which may sound a bit strange, but if you have it on hand it is really quite good in this recipe.  Now if you don't have herb jelly just add in some basil, parsley, and a touch of oregano and you'll be fine.  You could even blend the herbs with a bit of butter to make an "herb compound" to use in its place.  No worries, just good food.  Let's get to it, shall we?

1 package of 6 chicken tenders
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup white wine (or 1/2 cup Mead for an earthier taste)
2 tbsp herb jelly* (or basil, parsley, & a touch of oregano)
House spice blend
Garlic powder

Hardware: Slow Cooker

1. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized slabs and scatter along the bottom of the slow cooker.  Next add a layer of chicken tenders, there should be minimal overlap if at all possible, they are pretty touchy about having their own space in the sauce.  Top the chicken tenders with an thin layer of herb jelly (or herbs/compound).  Season lightly but evenly with spice blend and garlic powder.

2. Carefully pour in the chicken stock and white wine, stay towards the sides to allow as much of the jelly and spice coating to stay in tact.  Most of the chicken should be submerged once all of the liquid has been added.

3. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours.

4. Remove 1/4 cup of the liquid from the cooker and pour it into a small saucepan over low heat.  While it simmers, stir in flour 1 tbsp at a time until a paste-like consistency forms.  Once you get a nice golden color in the mixture (roux), slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.  You may need a whisk to help it fully combine.  When you have a smooth consistency, serve chicken drizzled with the creamy scampi style sauce.

* I know what you are thinking - what is herb jelly?  and who uses that stuff anyway?  But I have a good reason... really, I do... in a whirlwind of canning this past Fall I came across some more unique recipes and thought that "herb jelly" sounded like a delightful gift for the holidays and a simple gourmet treat to have on hand.  (There are recipes for herb jelly in many places on the internet, one base recipe example is here.)  Then when I realized, a month or so later, that I had absolutely no idea what to do with it I became determined to come up with a recipe to attach to the jars when I gave them out.  I must say, this one turned out quite nicely for just such a purpose.  But, as I said above, if you don't have herb jelly just add in some basil, parsley, and a touch of oregano and you'll be fine. 

However you make it, just give it a try.  You'll be surprised just how good your slow cooker is at its job, and how you made such a delicious dinner with so little effort.  You don't need to be busy, or out of the house often, to use your slow cooker - it does just as well if you are happily relaxing in the other room in front of a nice warm fire, or typing away at your computer.  So dust off that slow cooker, or in my case take the crock out of the dishwasher from yesterday's meal, and try your own spin on this twist on a classic dish.  Enjoy!

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