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SLOW COOKING: Recipe for slow cooker Meyer lemon chicken

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The trouble with slow cookers is that while they certainly deliver on ease, they sometimes disappoint on flavour. It's the risk you run when you dump a bunch of ingredients in a pot and walk away for much of the day.

So we decided to come up with a slow cooker chicken that packs plenty of sophisticated flavours, yet doesn't sacrifice the no-nonsense approach we love about slow cooking. We started with chicken thighs, which have richer, deeper flavour than chicken breasts. Then we added lemons, fennel, mushrooms and leek for a braise inspired by the cuisine of southern France.

We also wanted to resolve the other drawback of slow cookers — that the foods cooked in them often lack texture. So we finish the dish with seasoned, toasted breadcrumbs for a delicious crunch.

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SLOW COOKER MEYER LEMON CHICKEN

Start to finish: 20 minutes active, plus 4 to 5 hours on high heat or 7 to 8 hours on low heat

Servings: 6

2 large leeks, white parts only, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large yellow onion, chopped

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved

2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup white wine

1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary

2 Meyer lemons, quartered

Salt and ground black pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

Egg noodles, cooked, to serve

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the leeks, garlic, onion, mushrooms, fennel, chicken thighs, broth, white wine, rosemary, lemons, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for 7 to 8 hours on low heat or for 4 to 5 hours on high heat.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the coriander, garlic and a pinch each of salt and black pepper. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside.

When the chicken is done, remove and discard the lemons. Adjust seasonings with additional salt and pepper, as needed. To serve, place egg noodles in the bottom of serving bowls. Spoon the chicken and vegetables over the noodles along with some of the liquid. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Nutrition information per serving (not counting noodles): 310 calories; 110 calories from fat (35 per cent of total calories); 13 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 24 g protein; 310 mg sodium.

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