March 4, 2013 by Jason Rice MD
I have never put chicken in my slow cooker before. I was not aware of this fact until I actually went to put chicken in it this morning, and wasn’t really sure how I wanted to do it. Like many of the recipes on this blog, I created outline in my head while buying groceries and only had a loose idea of how it would all come together. I knew the flavors would work well, but I tend to make up the logistics as I go. So, having never slow-cooked chicken before, I found myself confronted by many questions.
- Did I want to sear the skin first?
- Did i want to season the chicken directly?
- Did I want to remove the skin and bones before cooking?
- Did I want to cut the chicken into stew-sized pieces first?
The answers to those questions ended up being no, no, no and no. But, it left me wondering if I really had any idea what I was doing, and the answer to that question was also no. So, with that in mind, we will embark on this adventure together, and I will do my best to explain my thinking as it pertains to the many questions I came across while putting this recipe together. Here we go…
- 2 lbs of chicken (I went with three breast and three thighs with the bones/skin intact)
- 1 large leek
- 5 carrots
- 8 oz cremini or button mushrooms
- 1 sweet onion
- 2 zucchinis
- 8-10 small gold or red potatoes
- 20 cloves of garlic
- 32 oz vegetable stock
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite herb blend (I used Penzey’s Mural of Flavor)
- 3-4 shakes of worchestershire sauce
- Salt & Pepper to taste
The first question I had when I started this recipe was what parts of the chicken I wanted to use. An economical decision would have been to buy a whole small chicken and butcher it myself. However, I didn’t think the wings would do so well in the slow cooker. I also wasn’t sure about the drumsticks. In my house, the breasts and the thighs are always the favorite pieces of the bird, so I went with a package of each of these. My laziness kept me from getting the breasts with the ribs attached, but I got thighs with skin and bones to add some extra flavor to the stew. I cut the breasts in half so they would be roughly the same size as the thighs. (This was arbitrary and may or may not have made any difference over the course of 8 hours in the slow cooker). I placed all the chicken in the slow cooker first, thighs with the skin down. I thought about searing the skin quickly before putting it in the slow cooker, but ultimately decided that this would only serve to render off some of the fat which I wanted to keep intact to flavor the stock. As far as directly seasoning the meat, I did sprinkle a little black pepper over the chicken before adding the vegetables, but I rationalized that a long bath in a seasoned stock would ultimately season all of the stew components, so seasoning specific ingredients was not a good use of my time.
I won’t get into how long I spent agonizing over the treatment of the chicken, but I can assure you it was a lot longer that it took to read the preceding paragraph.
So, moving on to the vegetables and the remainder of the stew…
Wash the potatoes and trim off any sprouts or other oddities. Qaurter the potatoes and add to the slow cooker. Peel the carrots and cut them into 1/4-inch thick coins. Roughly chop the onion into 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch strips. Add the carrots and onions to the slow cooker as well.
Next, slice the white and light green portions of the leek and rinse thoroughly. Chop the zucchinis into bite sized pieces – I quartered them and cut the spears into chunks. Peel the garlic cloves and gently crush them. The easiest way to do this is to lay the clove on your cutting board, lay your knife blade over the clove and gently press down on the knife blade with the heel of your hand. I could not find a safe way to photograph this that would have left me with a typing hand, but I’m sure it is google-able. The basic idea is to keep the clove intact and just break it open enough to let the flavors out into the stock. Add all of these veggies to the slow cooker. Then add the juice and zest of one lemon over the top.
Finally, wash your mushrooms and quarter them (or sixth or eighth them if they’re bigger), and add the mushrooms to the pot. Add some salt and black pepper based on your preference. Add your dried herb blend and cover the stew with your vegetable stock. You could, of course, use a chicken stock here, but after 8 hours of cooking, you will essentially have made a chicken stock anyway, so I chose the boosted flavor or a vegetable stock. Toss in a few shakes of worchestershire sauce if you wish (followers of this blog know I put this into nearly everything in at least a small dose). Stir everything together gently to distribute the herbs and spices.
Cook on low for 8 hours, and, as I always suggest when using the slow cooker, go run some errands or get out of the house for a bit. There are few things I enjoy as much as walking back into the house after the slow cooker has been going for a few hours and enjoying the aroma as I open the door.
Much like the mediterranean stew I posted a while back, I felt this was best served over some cous cous to hold it together and soak up the juice. I like the whole grain varieties as I think they have a little more substance to them. I went with a simple garlic and olive oil flavor, and it worked very nicely.
Everyone at Eats For All Ages enjoyed this stew. The chicken was beyond tender, the veggies picked up great flavor from the garlic and the herbs and the stock itself was worth licking the bowl. If there was anything I might change next time, it would be possibly a touch less lemon…maybe halve the amount of lemon zest. Overall, this experiment was a success, and I’m happy to have lots of leftovers ready for the impending snowstorm headed our way. Grab a bowl and enjoy!