I have a rule about slow cooking… it shouldn’t require too many steps or pre-cooking, otherwise, quite honestly, why am I using my crockpot? If I’m going to get out the skillet, lots and lots of ingredients, follow complicated steps, etc., I may as well just make it on the stove. The appeal of slow cooking is that I can quickly assemble dinner at breakfast time and go on with my day. However. Sometimes, there are certain steps that greatly benefit a slow cooked dish. Browning ground turkey or beef, for example, is worth it because you don’t want all that wet, slimy fat mixing into your final product. Quickly searing food really helps when you have breaded or floured chunks of meat. And when you want a dish with a nice, crisp coating but aren’t getting home until dinner time, sometimes you have to suck it up and brown the crockpot food in the morning.
My kids often request Chinese food for dinner, but constant take-out is not in our budget, nor is it healthy. I found a recipe for slow cooker Chinese Orange Chicken on Pinterest, and the picture alone made me hungry. I’m happy to share it here because it doesn’t matter whether or not you are gluten-free; use whatever you have in your pantry and enjoy it all the same.
Slow Cooker Chinese Orange Chicken
I put this into the crockpot amidst a busy day of homeschooling, a playdate, and cleaning up the kitchen. My husband had cut the chicken into chunks (chicken thighs) and strips (chicken breast) in the morning, so I was fortunate to have less prep remaining during our afternoon chaos. I placed the chicken into a bag with a flour/baking powder mixture, tossed well until coated, and browned in batches, paying attention only to the outsides of the chicken since the slow cooking would ensure it was cooked through. After assembling the sauce ingredients into the crockpot, I added the chicken and mixed well. I ended up cooking it on low for two hours, and then high for 30 additional minutes to give the outside a little crispiness. True to Chinese food expectations, it had a saucy yet crisp coating, and tasted amazing. My youngest said simply, “This is a really good dinner,” while taking her second helping. My husband said, “That was SO delicious.” I served it over rice with a side of steamed veggies, and my kids even had oranges afterwards as if in a Chinese restaurant. A+ to this recipe, I highly recommend it. It came together quickly, the flavor was authentic, and I’ll definitely be making it again.