Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Slow Chicken Paprikash redux

slow chicken paprikash with cauliflower

I learned a few things about cooking slow chicken from last winter, mainly that IMO the slow cooker isn't for cooking vegetables. It's for cooking meat, or in any case it isn't really for cooking meat and vegetables together. Because meat and vegetables have different cooking times, right? What you get with that is dried out chicken and watery vegetables, it doesn't have to be like that.

So the thing to do is to think about your slow cooker cooking your chicken in this conveniently vegetable-shaped vegetable broth, the veggies are just to sauce the chicken and for the most part you want to stick with veggies with a lower water content. Then you cook other vegetables separately for the actual vegetable portion of your plate, it's as easy as steaming frozen vegetables on the stove or in the microwave and you don't even have to season them—you have chicken and sauce to season them with.

Every slow chicken recipe uses chicken thighs, an aromatic vegetable (onion, garlic, shallot, or leek), and a feature vegetable like bell pepper that works well in a slow cooker. I didn't change this recipe too much from the original Slow Chicken Paprikash recipe, except I added a couple of Hungarian hot peppers because paprikash and the little kick you get is really good.

4-5 chicken thighs
1 onion
1 red bell pepper
2 Hungarian hot peppers

First, you can take the skin off the chicken thighs; the skin is where the fat is, and chicken thighs slow cooked in fat is nom. But, fat. Chicken thighs slow cooked without the skin is still pretty nom, it's up to you.

Slice up the onions and peppers and layer them in the cooker with the chicken, I do a bottom layer of veggies, a layer of chicken, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, another layer of veggies, another layer of chicken, and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. You can also throw in a couple of bay leaves in the veggie layers.

Set the slow cooker on low, and then go away for four hours. Yeah, I know, it's too bad you can't leave it for eight hours so you can cook while you sleep or work. Eight hours is too long, though. So maybe you can start this right after work and it'll be done before you go to bed? And just to get you thinking outside the box, you don't have to eat what you cook that night. You can come home with a burrito, put on your slow chicken, and eat your burrito on cooking night. Just saying.

But anyway when the chicken is done, take it out of the cooker, and at this point you can turn the cooker up to high to reduce the vegetables a bit, and the chicken can cool in a bowl. Or you can just skip that part and just think of your flavoring liquid for what it is, really delicious chicken broth. If you let the chicken cool though, you can take the meat off the bones for easier eating later. But whatever, portion out a chicken thigh per container—I use mason jars now— and divide your sauce or broth between the containers, and voila you have four or five chicken meals for the week, minus anything that you eat on the spot. I actually hardly ever eat slow chicken on the spot, the timing never works out like that; it gets cooked and put into jars in the fridge to grab later.

To eat later, I make up a bag of frozen vegetables. At home I have a really underpowered microwave, it's just as easy to throw them in a steamer on the stove and meanwhile reheat the chicken right in the mason jar in the microwave. Take off the lid, right? Then I plate the chicken and veggies together. I put away a half a bag of veggies per meal, your mileage may vary. At work I cook half a bag of veggies in a casserole in the microwave on high for four minutes, add a jar of chicken and finish cooking the veggies with the chicken for another 3-4 minutes.