How to Kill a Chicken Twice, Plus a Slow Cooker Whole Chicken

by Anne Bennett on October 4, 2010

I am telling you this story in hopes of sparing you the dinnertime fiasco we had here last week.

I’ll set the stage: our old house is finally getting new sheetrock ceilings. In the meantime we’ve moved out to the little cabana in the back yard where my mom used to live when she was alive. Two adults, two big dogs and a puppy in a crate. It’s cozy.

Living in close quarters is fun for about a week. Then the novelty of “camping out” wears off and the constant proximity to one’s mate quickly reaches critical mass. Say one wrong thing and you could die. It must be what living in a submarine is like, minus (my husband should be so lucky) the torpedos.

To distract myself, and because the kitchen in the house is now off-limits, I bought a new slow cooker. And here is where you can kiss my sanity goodbye: rather than follow a bona-fide slow cooker recipe, I just Googled “chicken in a slow cooker” online, found an easy, unattributed recipe and gave it a whirl without any further consideration.

After generously salting and peppering my nice, plump, expensive (it deserved a better fate than this) free range chicken, I plopped it into the slow cooker with some onions, carrots and celery. Then I turned it on High for, get this: six hours. From what I’ve since read, that’s like cooking it on Low for 12 hours!

When I opened the lid, my chicken had died a second death, only this one looked far more brutal than the first. It lay in pieces, the leg and wing bones scattered amongst the sodden vegetables. It resembled the long-dead carcass of an unfortunate desert animal.

I did not take a picture of this disaster. You wouldn’t want to have seen it anyway.

Alas, all is not lost. I acquired a slow cooker cookbook and tried it again, this time with much more success. The chicken did not fall apart and the vegetables held their shape. Mind you, this isn’t like roasting a chicken in a hot oven. There’s no crispy, brown skin. It’s more like poaching, but it makes for a pretty decent dinner, with vegetables included. I served it with a great apple chutney I got at Whole Foods. And here’s a plus: you can put the leftovers to other uses the next day. (More on that tomorrow.)

Here, adapted from Michele Scicolone’s excellent new book, “The Italian Slow Cooker”, is Braised Chicken and Vegetables.

4 red potatoes, thickly sliced
2 large carrots, thickly sliced
2 cups butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 3 1/2 to 4-lb. chicken
1/2 lemon
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 rosemary sprigs

Place the potatoes, carrots, butternut squash and onion in the bottom of a slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Liberally salt and pepper the chicken, squeeze lemon juice over the top and place the lemon rind, garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs in the cavity. Place the chicken atop the vegetables.

Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours. The chicken should be cooked through.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret October 4, 2010 at 7:46 pm

So where is the picture of the second chicken, Anne!

I feel for you… being displaced from your home sans kitchen. When we remodeled our home the contractors grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take (surprise, surprise). I was scheduled to have major surgery that September and they assured me that the downstairs bathroom and kitchen would be ready by the time I came home to recuperate. Well needless to say they were not.

I spent the two weeks post hospitalization at a Residence Inn in order to avoid having to climb the stairs with stitches in my abdomen to use the bathroom. It was also nice to have a kitchenette so I didn’t have to heal on Burger King and McDonald’s.

But it turned out well in the end… I survived and I love my kitchen!!

Mike October 7, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Ann– I hope you were able to give the chicken the Last Rites. It deserved as much. I’d hate to think this poor chicken’s soul is wandering around.

Do you take the photos of your recipes? One of my roommates is a food photographer in Chicago. Tim won a James Beard award for his Best Food Photography in 1999. He’s done several cookbooks for Charlie Trotters in Chicago, plus many more. I check his website to see what he’s up to in the world of photography:


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