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I am a mom to twin boys, full-time employee of a telecommunications company and wife to a professional musician. I work, do yoga, cook and try to squeeze in DIY projects and spending time with friends.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken, two versions

To know me, is to know I love my Crock Pot.  Cooking with it mirrors my parenting theory...  sometimes, benign neglect can be a good thing.  And that's the thing with a slow cooker- its all about neglect.

Chicken parts have always been a natural for the slow cooker.  Chicken leg quarters (drumstick/thigh) can be skinned, tossed in the slow cooker with a variety of sauces and left to cook all day.  Just this week I put five lbs of bone-in chicken thighs- big sale in the meat section!- into my Crock Pot with Goya Mojo Criollo Marinade (major grocery stores in my area carry this in the 'Mexican' or 'latin' section).  Here's the recipe- hang onto your hats, this is very precise (not).....

Put skinless chicken parts into the crock pot, and pour in 1-2 cups of sauce.  Cover, cook on low for seven hours or so.  Remove from heat.  When cool, put in fridge.  The next day or so, skim off any fat, then warm in the microwave when it's time for dinner.  The process of moving the chicken from the slow cooker to a microwave safe bowl usually causes the chicken to fall apart, leaving your dinner boneless.  Perfect!

For my family, I will divide the cooked chicken into two Foodsaver bags and stash them in the freezer for a five minute dinner another day.  One other note... slow-cooked meat ALWAYS tastes better the next day.  Alton Brown explains the science of this- the heating/cooling/heating of the meat causes the connective tissues to break down rendering the meat very tender.  Trial and error would have led you here eventually, especially if you double your slow cooker recipes so another day's dinner is done.

Other sauces to use for this technique....
  • Red Thai Curry or Yellow Thai Curry from Trader Joes.  
  • Half coconut milk/half Thai peanut sauce.
  • Mild salsa (try green tomatillo based-salsas)
  • your favorite barbecue sauces (I think the vinegar based sauces are best for slow cooking)
As I looked to expand my repertoire, I found that there are blogs and cookbooks dedicated to this style of cooking.  This one is well known.  Unfortunately for me, the author and I have very different tastes, and I have found most of her recipes disappointing.  I could be doing something wrong, of course- explore the blog on your own, perhaps your taste buds will match up with hers better than mine.

One gem was found among all the rest...  this one. As much as I love a crispy skinned roast chicken, there's not often 60-90 minutes at home before dinner to do it right.  But it's cost effective to buy a whole bird, and for our family, it's dinner tonight plus leftovers for Gracias Casserole and a few quesadillas for lunch for the kids.  Very useful.  

Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker
1 chicken, whole
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper

1. Wash chicken, and place in the slow cooker.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over chicken, rubbing on top of and below covering well.  Turn the chicken so that the chicken breast is in the bottom of the pot--  the cavity should be pointing down if your slow cooker is on the small side.  Turn slow cooker to low, and cook 6-8 hours until chicken is done.

2. When cooked, remove chicken to a covered casserole dish.  Allow pan juices to separate, and discard fat, keeping the 'gravy' to moisten any parts of the cooked chicken which might get dry, Mine don't, but I imagine it can.... you could also make a real gravy with the pan juices, or mix into mashed potatoes.  Yum!

Two more versions of this I make:
  • Provencal... 1 tsp sweet paprika, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp marjoram, 1/4 tsp white pepper and the juice of a lemon.  Put the used lemon in the chicken cavity.
  • BBQ:  Use a tablespoon of Northwoods spice blend, found at Penzeys. It's a BBQ flavored blend that was offered free with a coupon once and I found I liked it.    First one's for free!
Note 1:  No idea how her bird holds together for the photo on the blog post above...  mine comes out boneless.  That's the reason this post has no photos.... they didn't look appetizing!
Note 2:  Crock Pot is a brand name.  Slow cooker is the name of the generic appliance, although my slow cooker is a Crock Pot, so it's appropriate for me to describe it as such.  I didn't want the trademark police coming after me....

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