I generally hate slow cooker meals. I hate the mushy, overcooked texture and how it dulls the flavor of the ingredients. But since I've started working nights, the slow cooker has become my livesaver! What I've learned is to stick to cooking only meat in the crock pot. My favorite thing to do is to braise skin-on, bone-in chicken. I am an equal-opportunity braiser. I use bone-in chicken thighs, breasts, and legs (in fact, I think legs are my favorite!). Once they're done, all I have to do is make a starch (if needed) and a salad, and dinner is done!
To braise chicken in a slow cooker, you have to make a braising liquid. Below are three versions of braising liquid that I use. I make enough liquid to cover the chicken 3/4 of the way. These recipes are adaptable to any size family. For us, I usually make either two large bone-in chicken breasts, six to nine legs, or four to six thighs. The chicken is usually done after 5-6 hours cooking on high. The skin can be easily removed after the chicken is done. The next day you can shred the leftovers to use on salads or in soups.
The braising liquids are simple and rely mostly on pantry ingredients; another reason why these recipes come in handy!
B R A I S E D C H I C K E N A D O B O
I first started experimenting with braising chicken once I realized that I could make my mom's Filipino-style Chicken Adobo in a slow cooker. For that braising liquid, I use:
- 1 part vinegar (your choice, but I usually do rice vinegar unless I am out, then I use red wine-- I told you, this is a convenient method of cooking!)
- 1 part soy sauce
- 1 part water
- bay leaves, to taste
- garlic, to taste
- 2 large onions, cut in half
- optional: ginger, to taste (we never used this in my family but I know many people do!)
This isn't really a recipe per se. You just need to make enough of the braising liquid to cover the chicken 3/4 of the way.
B R A I S E D P O L L O C R I O L L O
I also make pollo criollo in the slow cooker, using the same method. I use a bottled mojo (Goya brand); one bottle is enough for two dinners), because I know it will stand up to the long cook time. I also add orange juice for extra brightness. Again, no real recipe -- I just make sure I have enough liquid to submerge 3/4 of the chicken. I am sure if you have your own mojo criollo recipe that it would work too!
When I get home from work, I make a simple yellow rice to serve alongside the chicken.
B R A I S E D C H I C K E N , C A C C I A T O I R E - S T Y L E
Another twist is a braised Cacciatoire-style chicken. To make the braising liquid, use:
- 2 parts crushed tomatoes
- 1 part wine
- 1 yellow onion, chopped roughly
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 3 (or more!) garlic cloves
- Dried oregano and basil, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 oz. mushrooms, variety of your choosing
- 2 large handfuls of fresh spinach
I make the braising liquid, then add the chicken and let it cook. 20 minutes before serving, I add the spinach and the mushrooms, and make pasta to serve with the chicken. You can garnish with parmesan! In the above pic, I just threw a handful of spinach onto my plate and let it wilt into the sauce as I ate. What can I say? It had been a long day!
What do you make in your slow cooker?