It has been a little while since I came up with something truly original, but I think this one counts. It came about by accident, but oh, what a happy, serendipitous accident!
I have been very busy at work lately and it has also been extremely hot. This has meant that we have been eating cold dishes like the smoked trout, arugula, moroccan olive, cucumber, tomato and toasted pumpkin seed salad that my daughter and I came up with independently. There isn’t time to fire up the charcoal grill and cook outside. So I turned to the slow cooker and decided to cook a chicken in it overnight (using one of the poaching methods described in Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook.
I liked the sound of the red chinese chicken dish but since I didn’t have all the ingredients I closed the cookbook and did the following.
Eighteen hour roast chicken
It is important to start in the evening after dinner and the day before you want to eat so that the chicken can cook overnight on the low setting and thus not heat the house up. Wash and pat dry one chicken (without giblets) and tear off the chunks of fat that are always tucked just inside the entrance to the cavity. Put it in your (large) crockpot or slowcooker. Tuck twelve dried shiitake mushrooms around it. Now pour three tablespoons of soy sauce carefully across it making sure you get some on all the visible part of the breast. Next sprinkle two teaspoons of chinese five spice powder over the bird (this is a ground mix of fennel, anise, cloves, cinnamon and ginger). Now carefully put a tablespoon of dry sherry inside the bird and one in the bottom of the pot. Next pour two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar over the bird, just like you did with the soy sauce. Finally take two tablespoons of black bean garlic paste and carefully smear it over all the surfaces of the bird you can reach using the back of a spoon.
Cover and cook on low for eight hours.
At this point I wouldn’t have been too far in spirit from the cookbook and was planning to remove from the heat and put the crockery part of the cooker straight in the fridge and have cold poached chinese chicken for supper. But I forgot and went off to work with the chicken merrily cooking away. My family didn’t know what I had done and assumed the chicken was cooking through the day for them. So, a total of 18 hours after I started it they served up dinner (onto a nice leftover lemon-scented pilau rice I had made).
For a short time they actually thought I had put a purchased rotisserie chicken in the crockpot. You see 18 hours had left the skin that was exposed (above the two inches of liquid that had formed in the bottom of the pot) dark and crispy and full of black bean garlic chinese goodness. The meat was meltingly soft and tender, the liquid was rich and deep with exotic flavors and chunks of sublime shiitake mushroom.
When I got home I was told it was the best roast chicken I had ever made. So, as usual, the best way seems to be to take your time!
Leftovers promise to be even better. I shredded the meat off the bone (which isn’t hard when everything is already falling apart) and stored in smothered in the rich juices.