From Pulled BBQ Pork to Buffalo Chicken, to Mexican Chicken - there are a bunch of recipes for good 'ole slow cooker chicken, pork, beef, etc. I have come to really love my crock pot.
The reason that people love their crock pot is very simple... you can have a full-blown meal, or at least 95% of a meal, and you don't have to do anything for at least 4-5 hours! For someone like me, who finds herself having to clean the house pretty much every single day (which is what happens when you live with a boy), you can still look like you spent all day cooking and cleaning! Meanwhile, you really just spent half the day cleaning and half the day doing other things, because the cooking is getting done while you do all the other work!
Anyway, to stop me from sounding like a women's magazine article about Crockpots, my inspiration for this recipe came from wanting to do a "pulled chicken" recipe, because you can do so much with it, but still infuse Italian flavors, not just BBQ or Mexican influences. Going through my repertoire of chicken recipes, I almost kicked myself for not thinking of this sooner! And look at all the different dishes can come from one simple crockpot recipe!
1.) Spread pesto on a toasted crostini, top with chicken, and sliced fresh mozzarella - bake in the oven until cheese melts slightly, and top with a sprig of basil.
2.) Serve over any kind of pasta! Top with grated parmesan cheese.
3.) Stuff a flour tortilla with chicken, sliced mozzarella, and pesto spread or basil leaves. Grill on a panini maker and serve with a light arugula salad. Or, stuff the arugula inside!
4.) Roll out pizza dough, drizzle with EVOO and minced garlic, top generously with shredded mozzarella, and top that with the pulled chicken - finished with a few dollops of ricotta.
5.) Chicken Parmesan Lasagna -- layer lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, pesto, pulled chicken, shredded mozzarella, over and over again. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake until heated through and cheese bubbles.
Now, to make any of the above, I'm sure you would like to know how to make the main ingredient. So, without further ado, here is my Pulled Chicken Parmigiana recipe! Enjoy!
Begin by cleaning your chicken breasts. Since I always remember my mom doing it this way, I use a clean pair of kitchen scissors to cut off the excess fat around the breast. (TIP: If you are using scissors for a task like this, make sure they are sanitized properly after coming in contact with the raw chicken. You're best bet is to have a specific pair that you only use for chicken -- just like you should with your cutting boards!)
After your chicken is clean, rub with the minced garlic, capers, parsley, and EVOO. Let this sit for about 30 minutes to an hour, just so the chicken can get flavored properly. If you don't have that kind of time, not to worry, all the flavors will come out in the crockpot.
Next, melt the butter over medium-high heat and drop your breadcrumbs and half the Parmesan cheese in the pot, essentially "toasting" the breadcrumb so they lose their lackluster flavor and can crisp up easily. Notice I added a dash of Paprika, but that's optional.
As Rachael Ray would say, "Now, time to get everyone down into the hot tub!" Put the chicken on the bottom, top with about 3/4 of your tomato sauce, leaving about 8-ounces in the jar for later, and put your breadcrumbs on top of that. You'll notice I put the basil in there as well, but in retrospect, I would advise you to leave the basil OUT until the very last ten or twenty minutes of the recipe, because it loses it's nice green color and gets brown and funny-looking. Not as vibrant. Pop the lid on the pot and set it on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours. (I thawed my chicken first, so cooking time was definitely less. If you are using frozen chicken, I advise 6-8 hours on low)
I opted for 4 hours on high, so after about 3 hours, check the chicken. The breadcrumbs should be nice and crisp and you should get a nice whiff of Italian everything :)
At this point, you'll want to add your last bit of Parmesan, as well as some chopped basil. Stir everything so the breadcrumbs, Parm, and basil incorporates in the pot, and leave for another 20 minutes, turning the pot down to low.
After twenty minutes or so, shred your chicken. I like to use two forks to pull away at the breasts, but whatever works for you! After all the chicken is shredded, add your last 8-ounces of tomato sauce, stir to combine, and leave for the last forty minutes... and you're done! Now you have a versatile, delicious, ITALIAN chicken to be used many, many different ways!
Let me know how YOU used it!