Monday, April 30, 2012

Busy Day "Rotisserie" Chicken

I learned a new trick that I'm pretty excited to share with everyone!

For those of you who know me, you know that I'm a little busy.  And by "a little busy" I mean I over schedule myself to the point of near nervous breakdown.  Now, I will acknowledge that I don't have kids, so it's possible that I don't even really know what busy means, but it sure feels like I do a lot.  And it's important to me to still put a good meal on the table.  To be honest, both cooking and eating good food are two of the things that I think really keep me sane.  No matter how busy I am, eating real food just makes me feel better.  When I eat crap, I feel like crap.  And I really believe that eating well helps keep me healthy, too.  I see my friends and co-workers who eat fast food every day, and they just seem to get sick more often.  

But, I do recognize that it is a challenge to cook every day.  Especially for those of you with kids.  I don't know how you do it!

As you may have noticed, I like using my slow cooker on busy days.  But I really try to not make red meat more than once a week, and I feel like I use up all my red meat meals on stew... when what I really want is a steak.  Steak sandwiches are a good middle of the week meal, especially in the summer when I can throw it quick on the grill!  Stew is good, but not as good as steak sandwiches.  Chicken in the crock pot is okay, but generally works best with similar pieces - like thighs or legs.  Since I'm buying from the farmer, I usually have a whole chicken, not individual pieces.  Plus a whole chicken costs less.

So, that's why I felt this one was too good to not share!

Now, I have to give fair warning right off the bat that this is not a gourmet meal.  While good, the chicken is not as good as it would be if grilled or roasted.  The flavor is there, but the chicken itself has turned out just a little dry both times I've done it.  Really, the only problem I found was in the breasts, and we generally don't eat those for dinner.  Usually the breasts get set aside and used for something else the next day, so it's not that big of a deal.  But still, this is not the best chicken you'll ever have in your entire life, so I feel it's important to provide some warning.  This probably isn't the chicken you want to make when you have fancy company coming over, and you don't want to use it in a cooking competition.  But it's good enough.

One solution I just thought of, and will be trying next, is to brine the chicken.  Brining is a process of soaking meat in a salt water solution.  This solution allows the meat to soak in and retain more water.  The salt also helps break down some of the meat, keeping it from drying out in the cooking process.  I have brined a turkey with much success, and I think it could be a great solution to the dry meat issue of this recipe.  The problem with a brine is that it generally leaves you with a less crispy skin, but this recipe (on it's own) leaves you with no crispy skin at all - so we need to resolve that anyway!

I am going to include the brining process in my recipe below, because I do believe it is the solution, but know that I have not actually done this yet, and it is not necessary.

I have done this twice now.  The first I just salted and peppered the chicken, and filled the cavity with an onion and lemon.  The second time I used a jerk seasoning rub that I had made almost a year ago and then froze (and then forgot about).  Both times it was quick and easy and turned out fairly well!

You are going to need a 3 to 4 lb chicken (if you want to do bigger, and you have a slow cooker that can hold it, I don't see why that would be a problem.  Not sure how long you would cook it for...), as well as any seasonings you want and something to elevate the chicken off the base of the crock pot.  The first time I used potato slices wrapped up in aluminum foil.  For some reason, this did not work well and the potatoes got a funny taste.  I'm not sure if they sat too long, or something reacted to the foil or what.  The second time, I wrapped three whole potatoes up in aluminum foil and that worked beautifully.  It came out just like a regular baked potato.  You could also just use balls of aluminum foil, if you didn't want the potatoes.  I used three, because that was the smallest number I could use and still adequately balance my chicken.

Season the chicken well, or even slightly more than well.  I have found that slow cooking tends to draw flavor out of meat.  That being said, brining would probably fix that as well.

Wrap three (or more) potatoes tightly in aluminum foil and place at the bottom of a slow cooker large enough to hold your chicken lying on its back, breasts up.  Once you've got the chicken seasoned in whatever way you would like (consider stuffing the opening with aromatics such as herbs, onions, garlic, and lemons), place it on top of the potatoes, being careful that it does not touch the bottom or sides of the slow cooker.  Cover, and cook on low for 9 hours.

Once you pull the chicken out (carefully, because it will want to fall apart), you will want to either broil or grill it to crisp up the skin.  I did try browning the chicken prior to cooking it, and this didn't seem to have much effect.  Mushy skinned chicken is really disappointing, and this step really only takes 10 more minutes.  I think it's worth it.  Your other option would be to remove the skin, which would be healthier, but come on - the skin is the best part!

This is a "do as you want" recipe, since really anything can be changed to suit your needs, but here is one specific example.  Assuming you made a batch of Jerk Chicken Seasoning in advance and froze it, this is extremely quick and great for a busy Monday.

Slow Cooker "Rotisserie" Jerk Chicken
The night before, drop your chicken into your brine and refrigerate overnight.  Since this is just a chicken and not a turkey, it's a lot easier to fit the whole thing into the fridge.  I like to use my stock pot, which just barely fits onto the bottom shelf of my refrigerator.  

In the morning, remove the chicken and discard the brine.  Dry the chicken well.  Wrap the potatoes tightly in aluminum foil (I used two layers), and place around the edges of a slow cooker big enough to lay your chicken down in, breast side up, without the chicken touching the edges of the slow cooker.

Rub the chicken all over, inside and out, with the jerk seasoning.  Place the chicken, breast side up, in the slow cooker, on top of the potatoes.  Make sure that the chicken is not in contact with the bottom or sides of the slow cooker.  Cover, and cook on low for 9 hours.

When the chicken is done, pre-heat a grill or grill pan to high heat.  Carefully (it will want to fall apart) transfer the chicken to the hot grill, and grill for about 5 minutes on each side, just to crisp up the skin.

Serve chicken with baked potatoes, and whatever vegetables you have on hand (I grilled up some asparagus), and additional jerk sauce if desired.

1 comment:

  1. Those of us with kids embrace leftovers! Unless you want to eat at 7pm every night (which is when we start putting out kids to bed), it's the only way to go on weeknights. That, and slow cookers (with leftovers for another night!).