Saturday, February 18

Slow Cooking: Spicy Coconut Chicken

Slow cookers, a.k.a. Crock Pots. Do you have one? If so, do you actually use it? Confession: I have three slow cookers. Actually, four if you count our GIGANTIC Nesco roaster. They were all gifts-I'm not an addict. However, now five years into my "homemaking career," if you will, I use all of them. It just took me a while to get into slow cooking.

Truth: Slow cookers are not the most glamorous kitchen tool, and the food they produce isn't always beautiful for photos. However, it is always delicious, and so simple and easy to get it that way. I think slow cookers are making a comeback with savvy cooks. In some cases, you can have a delicious hot dinner ready in the evening after just five minutes of prep work in the morning. Slow cookers save money because they can make just about any cut of meat moist, and it's hard to overcook something. And they are rumored to be one of the best ways to cook with a low energy cost - as low as two cents per day!

This recipe evolved from a recipe for Tandoori Chicken over at Crock Pot 365. I only made that dish once, with Greek yogurt. After a few weeks post-partum, all my food allergies came back in full force, and I couldn't have dairy at all. I wanted to make it again sans yogurt, so I did a little thinking and came up with a new twist to the dish: canned coconut milk as a yogurt sub. I also modified the spices (I'm allergic to garlic, so that went away with the yogurt). After cooking this on four separate, but all delicious, occasions, and playing around with the spices each time, I've landed upon what I think is the perfect combination of flavors. I also think my creation is unique and tasty enough to deserve it's own name. I'm calling it...

Spicy Coconut Chicken

What you need:

3-4 quart slow cooker (If you have a larger one, simply double the recipe. Leftovers of this dish are WONDERFUL!)
Fresh/thawed boneless, skinless chicken pieces. Try this combo: 4 small chicken thighs and 2 medium chicken breasts (I like Trader Joe's fresh organic, free range)
One can of coconut milk (Go for a brand without preservative chemicals, such as Taste Nirvana or Trader Joe's)
Bag of frozen broccoli or cauliflower pieces

1/2 to 1 tsp* of the following ground spices:
smoked paprika
crushed red pepper flake

*Use your taste as a guide. We love spicy around here, so for the real heat I recommend 1 full teaspoon of each spice.

What you do:

Put chicken pieces into the slow cooker (I used my 3 quart Hamilton Beach). Gently -to prevent splashing- pour half a can of coconut milk on top. Scoop each teaspoon of spice right on top of the chicken and coconut milk. Once everything is in the slow cooker, take a fork and start turning the chicken pieces, working from the bottom to the top. Get both sides of each piece coated. The spices will mix together on their own while you do this. When everything looks good and well coated, put the lid on, set the heat at Low, and cook for three to four hours, depending on thickness of chicken and power of your slow cooker.

At this point, add your frozen veg and keep the heat on Low. If the veg pieces are small, it won't take long to finish - less than twenty minutes. Dish up a plate: a piece of chicken, a few scoops of veg, and some extra sauce as there will be plenty. You can serve this on a bed of "riced" cauliflower for something extra. This is a great, convenient Paleo meal, it is super easy using the Crock Pot, and it has plenty of the three components we need: 1) lean protein (chicken), 2) healthy fats (coconut milk) and 3) vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower)!

Like I said, the slow cooker doesn't always produce aesthetically pleasing dishes, but this really tastes wonderful. Give it a try tonight!