Don't turn on the oven, please
It’s hot here in Germany. The news outlets keep comparing the heat wave blowing up from Africa to the 2003 heat surge that killed 15,000 people in France. That seems a bit extreme to me. I mean I think I would remember hearing about how 15,000 people died in one country over one summer! I was 24 in 2003, I watched the news! But here we are again. Another summer with high temps and no air conditioning. Normally it’s not needed this far north and with such mild temperatures. But on those rare occasions…. it can be dangerous without it.
With the intense heat and the persistent need to feed my family, I have to ask… what do I do if I don’t want to turn on my stove or oven?? Well the answer last night was to use the slow cooker!
Now most of you don’t know that in my prior life I was a food blogger. Not one of those food bloggers that people actually followed or who had a high quantity output of recipes. But I love to cook and I love to show off the amazing things I made!
In this summer of self-definition and personal creative spaces, I decided to return to my food blogger roots. But I’m not going to give you a recipe. I’m going to share with you a technique. A process. A way to solve a problem. The best part about a technique is that you don’t need a defined list of ingredients or even a plan. You do have to have a working knowledge of the flavors you like and what you have in your fridge.
Yesterday my family had a hot dinner without a stove or oven. There was no sweating in the kitchen. There wasn’t even a bunch of dishes to do after.
The answer is to slow cook a whole chicken. You need to start this anywhere from 5-8 hours before you want to eat. I put it all together at nap time and we at around 6pm. You can get a whole chicken or I bought thighs and legs still attached to each other - 4 of them (they came in a pack). You can use chicken thighs, legs, breasts or any combination of those parts. Just make sure they have their bones-in and skins-on. You can remove both after the cooking is done.
Place your chicken in the slow cooker and drizzle with a health drizzle of olive oil. Cover the chicken with a light coat of it. Then graciously season with salt and pepper. If you think you have added enough salt, add a little bit more. I use sea salt. If you use kosher or table salt, add less than you think you need.
Then this is where you can get creative. I sliced up a lemon and laid it on the chicken. I also added whole stems of fresh herbs - thyme and rosemary, because that is what looked good at the market.
Now I love a good shortcut! Anyone else here use garlic in a jar? Guilty! When I was single, pre-kids, trying to impress my now husband I turned my nose up at jar garlic. Fresh only, please! Now, who has the time to stumble around trying to peel those cloves??!! At my local supermarket here in Germany there are these herbs and vegetables in the freezer department. Fresh onions, garlic and herbs prepared and frozen to be used in your fresh meals. Brilliant. No herbs wilting before I use them. No chopping onions. I used an onion combo of this brilliance in the crock pot yesterday. I wanted an onion flavor but I didn’t have any onions. Plus dumping in the frozen onions was a lot faster of a process!
So I added in about a small handful on the onions. If you are using a fresh onion, I would just cut one into quarters and toss it in. You’re not going to eat the onions after. You just need it for the flavor. I skipped the frozen and jar garlic for this chicken and instead sprinkled garlic powder all over the chicken.
Then I closed the crock pot and set it to high for the next 4 hours. You can also cook it on low for up to 8 hours. You know your slow cooker best so just keep an eye on it!
You’ll know it’s done first by the intoxicating smell in your house and also because when you grab a bone it slips right out of your chicken! Delicious!
The skin gains a little bit of crispiness because of the olive oil it cooked in. I took a bite of the skin because - YUM! - but then removed it when I served dinner.
For side dishes you have some more options. I put out a bowl of balled watermelon to graze on and served the chicken along side apple sauce and rice. I bought microwavable rice to keep it totally stove-free. It was ok. I’ve tried a few brands of microwaveable rice and haven’t found one that I love. If you have one that you like, please share your wisdom with me!
Other side dishes that don’t require the stove: rolls with butter, veggies heated in the microwave, a side salad, chopped up raw veggies, or even black beans heated in the microwave.
And there you go! A technique to use on hot summer days when you don’t want to cook!
Other combinations you can try: rub your chicken with olive oil and Moroccan spices, add potatoes to the slow cooker or try a combination of mint, limes and garlic to season the chicken. Search your pantry and fridge and just throw it in the pot!
Do you have a go-to slow cooker technique or recipe that you love? I’d love to add it to my summer menu! Share with me in the comments!
Keep cool friends!