Crockpot Chicken du Monde

Going through my pantry and refrigerator was a wonderful treat this afternoon. I needed to fill my crockpot with chicken and a flavorful combination of broth, base, and seasonings, and came to the realization that the international melting pot (better known as my kitchen) is truly delightful. Ingredients in the following dish originated in England, the Deep South (who’s culinary roots stretch as far as Africa), Italy, and France. As much as I am trying to cultivate my baking skills, my favorite dishes are those which are thrown into a pot with very little measuring or fuss. This recipe is about as hassle-free as you can get – there are approximately three steps. I am estimating on the amounts of seasonings I used, since I just used dashes and handfuls and scoops.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken – with or without giblets (just make sure they aren’t plastic wrapped if you leave them in)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups water (or any combination of any broth and any wine – if not using wine, add 1/4 c sherry)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 onion (any color, I used yellow) roughly diced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp coarse Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp Sorghum molasses (or brown sugar or molasses)
  • 1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh sage
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 tsp beef bouillon (I use this really great jarred bouillon called “Better Than Bouillon,” – I only had beef on hand, but they also make chicken and vegetable)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp “Sexy and Sassy Garlic Herb Mixture”

Sexy and Sassy Garlic Herb Mixture was something we found at the downtown market in Charleston, SC the week we got married. We were buying Lillie’s BBQ sauce for our favor bags and bought so many jars from one of the vendors that she gave us a bag of seasoning. As best as I can tell, it includes the following:

  • Red pepper flakes
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried onion
  • Dried parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried jalapeno peppers

It is very unique, and I just had a sneezing fit sticking my nose too deep into the jar trying to ascertain the ingredient list.

On to the preparation:

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Rinse and dry the chicken, place into crock pot. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a sauce pan on the stove and heat.

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Place the chicken in the crock pot and cover with the liquid, cook on high for 4.5 hours.

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After the chicken finishes cooking, CAREFULLY remove it from the crockpot and let it rest on a plate.

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Strain the tomato stock through a strainer.

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Reduce stock.

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Serve chicken over mashed potatoes, drizzle with several spoonfuls of broth, garnish with toasted bread and chopped parsley.

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Et voilá! C’est fini. 

The flavors of this dish blend perfectly. The extended braising of the chicken makes the meat exceptionally juicy and tender – though the skin doesn’t become deliciously crisp and brown as it would if it were roasted. When removing it from the stock, be very careful. I grabbed it by a drumstick and the bone came right out – leaving the leg meet fully intact and attached to the bird. The cumin adds a distinctly Southwest flavor to the dish, which is enhanced by the sweetness of the sorghum molasses and the tartness of the lemon juice. Feel free to add a little heat to the dish in the form of hot sauce or cayenne pepper. If you choose, the stock (roughly a quart left over) will make a delightful tomato basil soup, or use it as a base for any other combination of flavors (perhaps a ratatouille themed soup? Tomatoes with garlic, onions, courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), bell peppers, marjoram and basil, or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs like herbes de Provence).

What is really fun about this recipe is the unending variations. I used what was in my pantry and this will likely be the only record of this recipe in existence because I will probably not write it down anywhere else. One thing I would love to start is a kitchen journal. I have so many recipes like this that I try and never get around to writing down that it would be so nice to compile them – like a recipe box. Other interesting tidbits of information would find their way into the pages – what wine was served with dinner, what sides went with what main dishes, interesting facts about the ingredients, records of seasonal produce, who came for dinner and what we served them, thoughts on food preparation. For example: this dish. Worcestershire sauce has English roots dating back to the  1830s when John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, of Lea & Perrins commercialized it in 1837. The Sexy and Sassy Garlic Herb Mix was given to us by a woman working at a Gullah booth in the Charleston Market where culture is steeped in traditions from Africa combined with American flavorings and the odd South American ingredient. Sorghum molasses is the extraction of sugars from the sorghum plant which historically originated in the Sahara region of Africa. Presently, it is a very southern United States condiment commonly slathered on biscuits in place of honey. Dijon mustard originated in the Dijon region of France, while the combination of Italian parsley, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil added to sauces and soups is a distinctly Mediterranean flavor. Experiment with other regional flavors to make this dish your own.

Bon appétit.

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