As someone who loves to cook, I did not think slow cookers were for me. I associated them with culinary laziness, much like bread making machines. My opinion changed out of necessity, when all of us were going to be out of the house for the whole day and my need for something I could prep in the morning and have ready for us come dinner time was more pressing than maintaining my culinary standards. I now find that my slow cooker is good for very specific things, like chili and stews, and I use it then but for the most part it sits in the garage, forgotten and undervalued.
Until I came across this NY Times recipe for Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken. It was the perfect recipe for a day when I would be playing in an online Scrabble tournament all afternoon. I did the prep work in the morning and then let the slow cooker do the work. The prep work for the Salsa Verde chicken was minimal, almost nonexistent, but I wanted to dress it up a bit and customize it for our family, so that is what required prep work. If you are just making the Salsa Verde Chicken, you will need no more than 5 minutes. Seriously! But it is soooo much better with a few add-ons. I made homemade tortillas (these are incredibly easy to make and taste much better when they are fresh, so they are a staple in our house) and green rice. I also prepped a bunch of fixins’ and we had ourselves a fabulous dinner.
For the tortillas, I usually follow a recipe I found online years ago. It is crazy easy and no tortilla press is necessary. I don’t feel a need for each tortilla to be perfectly round because they are handmade so it is okay that they look like they are.
Taste of Home Tortillas:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in water and oil. Turn onto a floured surface; knead 10-12 times, adding a little flour or water if needed to achieve a smooth dough. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into 8 portions. On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 7-in. circle.
In a greased cast-iron or other heavy skillet, cook tortillas over medium heat until lightly browned, 1 minute on each side.
The tortillas are best if cooked on the skillet right before eating, but I am usually busy doing other things then so I make them ahead of time during the day. When they are cool, I wrap them in aluminum foil and let them hang out on the counter, at room temperature. Just before eating, I heat them (still wrapped in the aluminum foil) and serve them warm.
For the green rice, I throw a bunch of green things in my blender. This time, I roughly chopped green onions and tomatillos, seeded 1 jalapeno, and threw in a big handful of cilantro.
I chopped it all up in the blender and added chicken stock to make a green broth that would serve as the liquid for my rice. I chopped up one yellow onion and 3 cloves of garlic (I do this step any time I am making rice – it makes it so much more flavorful) and sautéed it in 2 T of olive oil. I then added 2 cups of rice (I usually have a variety of rice in my pantry and so I had Spanish rice on hand, but any rice will do) and sautéed that. (Again, this is how I always make rice – sauteing it with onions and garlic before adding my liquid. And I almost always use chicken broth – or vegetable broth is vegetarians will be dining with us – instead of water.) After a minute of cooking the rice with the onions and garlic, I add the green chicken broth concoction and supplement with chicken broth to make 4 cups of liquid. I do not add salt because the chicken broth has salt, but a little salt would be good to add if you are using water or an unsalted chicken broth. I cover the rice and let it come to a boil, then simmer it for 20 minutes. Before serving, use a fork to make sure all of the green goodness is evenly distributed.
So here is the unbelievably easy Salsa Verde Chicken recipe from the NY Times (Sarah Digregario). I doubled the recipe because I wanted us to have leftovers.
Slow Cooker Salsa Verde Chicken
This spicy, saucy chicken takes almost no time to prep in the morning and only 5 minutes to finish before eating. At its simplest, the recipe is a meal-in-a-bowl stew, and the toppings are key to making it feel special. You could serve the chicken over rice or a whole grain, or use it as a taco or enchilada filling (use a slotted spoon to serve the chicken, if it is very saucy). You can also add 1 cup of frozen or fresh corn, or a drained 15-ounce can of black beans or pinto beans; just add them at the end along with the fresh cilantro and scallions. The level of heat in jarred salsas can vary, so taste yours first to ensure it is to your liking. If you want more spice, leave some of the jalapeño seeds in, or use hot canned green chiles instead of mild ones.
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 ½ cups jarred salsa verde
- 1 (4-ounce) can chopped mild green chiles
- 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded and diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced
- 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems finely chopped (about 1 heaping cup)
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh lime juice, to taste
- Any combination of rice, tortillas, pepitas, queso fresco, diced avocado and crushed tortilla chips, for serving
- Combine the chicken thighs, salsa verde, green chiles, chopped garlic, jalapeño, garlic powder, onion powder and cumin in a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker. Stir to evenly combine. (Don’t add salt now; jarred salsas are often high in sodium.) Cook on low until the chicken is tender and the flavors are blended, 5 to 6 hours. (If you will be away for 8 hours or more, set the cook time for 4 hours on low and set the slow cooker auto-switch to warm for the remaining time.)
- Use two forks to coarsely shred the chicken. With the heat on low, add the scallions and cilantro, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and lime juice. Serve with rice or in tortillas, if desired, with accompaniments.
Our accompaniments were chopped green onions, fresh cilantro, crumbled cojito cheese, sliced avocados, pickled onions, sour cream and salsa. I use pickled onions on a lot of things and I find they add an extra zing to so many things and are a great staple to have on hand. In fact, we finished off the batch I made for dinner so I sliced up another red onion while I still had some of the pickling liquid left to prep some more for us for the week. I have experimented with a lot of different recipes but here is the one I have settled on that is really easy and tasty.
Bobby Flay’s Pickled Onions:
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
- Salt and pepper
Place all ingredients in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
These are leftovers that we are all eager to devour as straight up leftovers, but I could also add some beans and corn to the leftover chicken and convert it to a chili, using all of the fixings from last night’s dinner as fixings for the chili. I could also use the chicken as a yummy filling for quesadillas. But I think we are just going to reheat everything as is!