Monday, November 22, 2010

Slow and Low

The current sub-zero weather is perfect for a weekend holed up in the cave (my suite-very few windows but very cosy) cooking comfort food. And cook I did! Friday was the slow cooker lamb curry which turned out good but not exactly how I wanted it. Still, it was physically and mentally warming to come home to a ready made pot of meat, sauce and spice. I had a plan for the weekend. It mainly involved food. I was going to make 2 things...soup and a then roast a chicken... in the slow cooker. The soup was simple, the Maple Roast Parsnip Soup I had previously made and devoured. An obvious choice for the weather. This time I threw in a sweet potato...I know, I know...livin' on the edge. It turned out great and I had enough for 6 portions so lunch for the week is taken care of with a spare for the freezer.
Why I am wanting to roast a whole chicken in the slow cooker? To see what happens! I looked up online if this was possible and of course it is. I was curious to see what happens to the texture and flavour when slowly cooked. The online blogs and recipes promised moist, flavourful meat falling off the bone. The only downside (or not if you are trying to be ultra healthy) is that the skin doesn't crisp up. I could get over that though. I rubbed some olive oil over the chicken and sprinkled on dried rosemary, sage, sea salt and pepper. Inside I put half an onion, half a lemon and a couple of garlic cloves which is my usual standard method for roasting chickens.
Then I put it in the slow cooker on high for 5 hours.

It went white but was hard to tell if it was cooked. I used a thermometer to check and it was 195F...well above the required 180F for food safety. Yay, I'm not going to get sick. Safe to say it was done like,well...dinner. I was warned to use 2 sturdy spatulas to remove the chicken as it would likely fall apart so I was prepared and armed. Mission successful, it remained in one piece. The thought went through my head, "why was that so easy?". Was this really a disaster and the chicken is going to deflate when I pierce it as seen in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation or be so rubbery and chewy I'll be able to bounce it off the floor? All my fears melted away when I went to pull off a leg and the bone literally slid out like a hot knife through butter, but in reverse. The bone was so clean I couldn't believe it. As I started to pull the chicken apart, it was so easy and moist...this would be a good option for the less dexterous out there or those who are a danger to themselves, the roast and others when carving. You know who you are. Anyway, certainly slow cooking passed the test in this department. Now for taste. The chicken was moist and flavourful. The taste was not as rich as when roasted but that is in part due to the skin not cooking and thus not releasing lots of fat into the roast...another benefit for those looking to but some calories. Some juices do come out into the slow cooker but it's nowhere near as greasy or oily as an oven roast, despite the olive oil I added. I anti-carved (minus a knife) the chicken, took a portion for myself for dinner and put the rest in a tupperware container for later use in the week. All in all a success and definitely recommended for minimal input and attention required. How nice to come how to roast chicken after being at work all day or being out on the slopes all weekend? You don't have to wait 2 hours for it to cook once you are home and you can leave it unattended so you can get out and enjoy your day. As long as you can get over the lack of crispy, oily goodness from the skin, this could be a staple in your weekly meal plan. Now all I have to do is decide how to use almost a whole chicken over the next few days. Suggestions?
Next on my list of things you wouldn't associate with a slow cooker is Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yes you read that right :-)

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