Monday, September 16, 2013

Slow Cooker Hunter's Chicken from Make Ahead Paleo

It was an exciting day at my house when I opened my mailbox and found this a copy of Tammy Credicott's new book Make-Ahead Paleo: Healthy Gluten-, Grain- & Dairy-Free Recipes Ready When & Where You Are.  At first glance, this is a beautiful cookbook.  It's organized into six sections:  Make & Freeze, Low & Slow, On the Go, Room Service, Travel Treats and Week in a Day. If you've read my blog for a while, you know I'm not one to be fully won over by pretty pictures, so I'll be putting this book to the Paleo Review test cooking recipes from five out of the six sections.  

I am a huge fan of using the slow cooker and her Slow Cooker Hunter's Chicken seemed like a great place to start exploring this cookbook.  I gathered my ingredients and got ready to load my slow cooker.  

Imagine 2 cups of chicken broth and some white wine in this picture.

The day before making this recipe, I took a look at the ingredient list and realized I had everything I needed to make it already at the house.  What I didn't notice is that she actually calls for fresh tomatoes. My bad.  The slow cooker is pretty forgiving, so I decided I'd make it with my canned tomatoes and accept responsibility if it didn't turn out well.

I chopped up the vegetable ingredients according to the recipe instructions.  The recipe calls for 1 shallot.  The dreaded one shallot problem.  The shallot I had was only one clove.  I decided to just use all of it it as in a minced form it would likely disintegrate quite a bit after a full day in the slow cooker.  I weighed it and it was 2.8 ounces of shallot.   

Tammy gives the option of cutting up the chicken before cooking or after before broiling the slow cooked bird.  I know from my previous whole chicken slow cooking experience that the chicken will be very delicate after a day in the cooker and I might end up with a chicken mess if I waited until after. I decided to cut the bird up first.  

I cut my whole chicken into pieces and seasoned it before putting it into the slow cooker.

I added the remaining ingredients over the chicken and topped it off with chicken broth and white wine.

Those tomatoes look so tasty.

I put the lid on and cooked the dish on low for 8 hours.  When I returned home from work, this is what I had.  

And here is where the magic happens in this recipe.  You broil the chicken until the skin is browned.  I know these pictures are somewhat repetitive, but look at the difference.  

Here is the before.  

This might be tasty. 

And the after.  I broiled mine for 6 minutes.

Oh, this most certainly has to be yummy. 

Here is my dinner plate.

Accessibility & Cost of Ingredients:  You should be able to find everything you need at your "big box" grocery store.  Believe it or not, I'm still cooking through my organic chickens I got last year during Whole Foods one day sale.  I used canned no salt added chopped tomatoes this time due to my reading error.  I also used dried tarragon instead of fresh, but Tammy gives a measurement for dried which is nice.

Ingredient Note:  The recipe calls for cremini mushrooms.  The night before I made this I did a little research as I had a large package of baby portobellos that I needed to use and wondered if they would be a good substitute for creminis.  It ends up baby portobellos ARE creminis.  Would white or button mushrooms work? The article if found says the creminis are firmer, have more color and more flavor.   I agree with the more color and the firmness.  I'm not certain about the flavor difference.  If you already have some button/white mushrooms in your pantry they'd probably work.  I usually buy the baby portobellos because of the color difference.  In my mind, the more color the more nutrients.  

Preparation & Cooking Time:  Since you may choose to not cut up your chicken, I paid attention to the break down of my preparation time.  It took me 10 minutes to chop up the vegetables for the recipe. It would take me a few minutes more if I had used the fresh tomatoes.  It took me 3.5 minutes to cut up the chicken.  It took me 6.5 minutes to season the chicken and load up the slow cooker.  My total preparation time was 20 minutes.  I cooked the dish on low for 8 hours.  

Clean Up:  Even with the broiling step, the clean up was super easy.  Everything went into the dishwasher.  

The Paleo Review:  Thumps Up!  This recipe represents a slow cooker chicken "A-ha moment" in my kitchen.  When I've made slow cooked chicken in the past, the texture has always thrown me off. Broiling the chicken pieces at the end gives me the crispy crust that brings out the flavors of the dish. Yum.  Beneath that skin, there was juicy chicken and vegetables.  Whatever you do, do not skip the broiling.  

I am glad, personally, that I cut up the chicken before cooking.  It still required me to be careful with the chicken pieces so they didn't fall apart on the way to my broiling pan but I have zero confidence I would have had the pretty pieces I had if I had not cut up the bird before.  Also, cutting it up before hand gave me a nice chicken back to save for broth making.  

I think it turned out just fine with canned tomatoes.  I have no doubt it would be better with fresh, but if you have everything ready to go for this recipe but no fresh tomatoes, don't let that stop you.  I did need to add a little salt and I think that's because the canned tomatoes I had no added salt.  

Don't skip out on the parsley garnish at the end.  I think it helped make the flavors of the dish pop.

I've not seen that Tammy has shared this recipe anywhere, so you'll have to buy the book if you want to enjoy this dish.