We love a good Crock-Pot chicken recipe, whether a French-bistro classic or a home-cooked version of a takeout staple. But this new one from chef Michael Smith's Make Ahead Meals has stolen our hearts. What first got our attention was that it calls for boneless, skinless chicken-thigh meat, which we're convinced is far superior to bland breast meat, and a good glug of white wine. Then we noticed it also includes barley, an unexpected grain that adds a pleasant chewy contrast. What sealed the deal, though, was that the recipe uses four large leeks. You trim them (discarding the dark-green tops), halve them lengthwise and nestle them in among the other ingredients. The onion-like veggies slowly melt into the dish as they cook; so, by the time the dish is finished, the veggies are almost silky.

Chicken and leeks make a fantastic combination; both have a mild flavor that becomes richer in the slow cooker. Stirring fresh thyme into the pot just before serving is a great way to accent all of the ingredients. And there's one more reason to put this recipe into your regular rotation: It reheats like a dream. You can refrigerate it for up to six days, or freeze it for a month.

Crock-Pot Chicken, Barley and Leeks Recipe

Recipe created by Michael Smith

Serves 6 to 8


  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, or 4 full chicken legs
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Lots of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • A few splashes of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup barley
  • 4 large leeks (white and pale-green parts only), trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 4 to 6 cups homemade chicken broth, a low-sodium store-bought substitute or water
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • Leaves from 10 or 12 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped

    Generously season the chicken and thoroughly dredge it in the flour, shaking off the excess. Splash a few spoonfuls of oil into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until fully browned and thoroughly crispy. Transfer to a plate when cooked.

    Pour the wine into the sizzling pan and stir loose every single bit of browned flavor. Pour into your slow cooker. Top with an even layer of barley. Neatly nestle in the leeks, and cover with the browned chicken. Add the chicken broth, wine, bay leaves and garlic. Cook on any setting until the chicken is tender and the barley is cooked, 6 to 8 hours, or more, depending on your slow cooker.

    At the appointed hour, fish out the bay leaves and stir in the fresh thyme.

    From Make Ahead Meals. Copyright © Michael Smith 2015. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Photography credit: Ryan Szulc.

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