Le Coq au Crock
Recipe: Crock Pot Chicken
Over the years I’ve regularly come across recipes for roast chicken that call for bunging the whole bird into a crock pot and just letting it go for four or five hours, and although I find nothing to quibble with in terms of the labor involved (next to none), I have up to now shied away from this approach mostly on principal. To me, the crackly skin and pan drippings of an oven roasted bird are among its main attractions.
Also, most crock pot recipes rely on spice rubs for flavor, and I just can’t seem to go there. I know people love them and the food cognoscenti swear by them, but in my experience they disappoint, usually because they are overly salty, inedibly spicy or both. Three bites into the Moroccan lamb and I’m parched and coughing, leaving me with no alternative but to wash it all down with vast oceans of beer, which – in addition to being an integral part of the backyard grilling experience – is the only cure for the double header of excessive salinization and digestive conflagration. Trust me, no good can come of that.
Just ask the nice folks who invited us over for a barbecue last year and ended up having to help Mr. Slattern wrestle me into the car at three AM sobbing about the ’03 ALCS and ranting about “that-pussy-Alex-Rodriguez-and-his-asshole-buddy-Jeter.” Needless to say, we were not invited back and subsequent letters of apology were returned to sender. I suspect our hosts may have since left the state. I was also informed that a lesser man would have considered that behavior to be grounds. Point taken.
Nonetheless, despite my hesitation about flabby chicken skin and disastrous rubs, I have long wanted to find a way to cook a whole chicken in my crock pot. It’s just too easy to resist. So instead of a spice rub, I coated the bird in a mix of fresh herbs and olive oil, set it on top of some sliced onions and celery stalks, popped that bad boy in the crock and it worked a treat. I threw the bird in at 2:30 and took it out at 8:30, moist and delicious and right on time for the evening meal. Prep time: ten minutes. Unimprovable!
No-Rub Crock Pot Chicken
Scatter in the bottom of your crock:
- 1 medium onion, sliced into ¼ inch thick rounds
- 2 cloves garlic, quartered
- 4-5 stalks of celery, washed and left whole
Finely chop equal quantities (so that you end up with a couple tablespoons of each):
- Fresh sage
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh rosemary
If you don’t have any fresh herbs, you can just substitute a couple tablespoons of dried Herbes de Provence or smaller quantities of the dried versions of the above. Use much less than with the fresh because dried herbs are stronger.
Put the chopped herbs in a bowl. Add enough olive oil to bind them. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Take a three to four pound chicken (free range is really best) and gash the legs to facilitate cooking. Here’s how:
Shove a chunk of onion and some of the herbs, or a bay leaf, or all three into the cavity. Set the bird in the crock and cover the skin with the oil and herb mixture. DO NOT ADD LIQUID OR YOU WILL HAVE BOILED CHICKEN!
Cover and cook on low for five hours for a three-pound bird. Add an hour for a four-pounder.
That’s really all there is to it. And as an added bonus, after dinner you can throw the bones right back in the crock with the drippings, add some water and a couple of bay leaves, turn the crock back on high and in a few hours you’ll have the making of a very nice chicken soup!