You don’t usually hear “slow cooker” and “summer” in the same sentence. However, I have a trick up my sleeve that makes a lot of delicious summer creations all the easier… and that is, cooking a whole chicken in the slow cooker. This foolproof method results in juicy, fall-off-the-bone meat that can certainly be enjoyed as a hot meal, especially when veggies are added to the pot and the entire meal is drizzled with its flavorful jus.
But . . . now that we are in full-on summer, I find myself yearning for warm weather creations, especially yummy alfresco and picnic fare. And so many of those include chicken. Indeed it’s the one meat most everyone can agree on. So think traditional chicken salad and its unlimited variations (curried, tarragon . . . I love adding green grapes, toasted pecans and fresh dill), wraps, pressed baguette sandwiches, and all sorts of green salads such as Cobb, Chinese, Southwestern and of course, Caesar.
As the mercury rises, I prefer to keep my kitchen cool. That’s where the slow cooker comes in. So even if I enjoy a hot meal that evening straight from the pot, I will still have plentiful leftovers for light summer recipes made with tender, moist chicken - both white and dark meat.
Slow-Cooker Summer Chicken
1 whole chicken, approximately 4 pounds, giblets removed
Spice Rub of your choice or:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme or mixed herbs of your choice
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 whole lemon, halved
- Rosemary and thyme sprigs (2 of each)
1. You may use any favorite spice rub or seasoning. The rub ingredients listed here are fairly standard and will produce a classic flavor that lends itself to a variety of uses for the chicken. However, if you know you will be making something with a particular flavor profile such as a southwestern salad, for example, you could use cumin, garlic and chili powder. It’s your choice!
2. Rub mixture all over the chicken and between breast skin and breast meat. If desired and to further enhance the flavor of the bird, you may add a halved lemon and/or rosemary and thyme sprigs to the cavity.
3. Place in slow cooker, breast side up. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, until the chicken is cooked through and falling off the bone.
4. Using wide spatulas or large spoons, transfer chicken to a platter and cool slightly. Discard the skin and “carve”/pull the chicken as needed.
Just one of many wonderful summer salads you can make with cooked chicken is a Chicken Antipasto Salad. No recipe required: just start with a bed of greens such as romaine and radicchio, add your favorite Italian antipasti ingredients, artfully arrange and drizzle with your favorite Italian vinaigrette.
I used roasted red peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans, both green and black olives, cherry tomatoes, red onion, small mozzarella balls and of course, my pulled chicken. Feel free to also add julienned salami or prosciutto and pepperoncini.
As for the dressing, homemade is always best. I recommend a red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano blend, enhanced by a bit of grated Parmesan cheese to better emulsify it. I like a more tart, acidic vinaigrette with antipasti ingredients so would start with a 1:2 ratio, e.g. 1/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup oil. Taste as you go and add more of either to suit your own preference, and don’t forget the salt and pepper.