By Natalia Gill, from An Appetite For Joy
“I wish you could photograph the smells” my mom said when I was taking these pictures. Just a few minutes later, my 7-yr old walked into the kitchen and called out “Mmm, it smells so good! What is that?” That is what you get when you slow cook chicken with garlic, lemon and – for a Middle Eastern twist – shawarma style seasoning with cumin, chilies & thyme… intoxicating aromas and deeply infused flavors.
(These beautiful flavors can make a second appearance if you use the bones to make a homemade stock!)
True shawarma is prepared on a long vertical spit where lamb or chicken is layered with pieces of fat to keep the meat juicy and flavorful. Then it is sliced off and served on flat bread or stuffed into a pitta pocket and topped with tahini or yogurt sauce. It’s lightened up with a pile of onions, tomatoes and fresh herbs. (This description comes from The Food and Cooking of the Middle East, (Amazon affiliate link) a book my husband bought me for Christmas – I love it!)
Since 99.9% of us don’t have a spit, the next best thing is a slow cooker. I prep the chicken earlier in the day and set it on low for a few hours, giving it a quick broil at the end to get it nice and roast-y. Served with salad and rice with the savory chicken juices spooned over, it makes a simple and delicious weeknight meal that I can usually stretch another day or two with leftovers.
I started daydreaming of how I might serve this to guests. And I realized that in recent weeks on The Nourishing Gourmet we have been putting together a feast of exotic yet widely-loved flavors.
Wouldn’t this be good?
- This Shawarma Style Slow-Cooked Chicken
- Simple Cilantro and Olive Oil Dipping Sauce (or this Garlic Yogurt Sauce with Herbs)
- Avocado, Apple and Cilantro Green Salad
- Quinoa Salad with Cucumbers, Chickpeas and a Yogurt Dill Dressing or Toasted Almond Rice Pilaf
- And to drink, Healthy Strawberry Lemonade (Stevia Sweetened)
Of course you can use this technique and make any style of chicken you want. If you want to mix and match flavors, I’ve written up 8 tips for making it a success every time.
Here are two of those tips:
1) Cut little slits in the skin, just big enough to place a garlic clove between the meat and skin. Doing this really infuses the meat with flavor!
2) Place the bird breast-side down in the slow cooker so the fat can drip down onto the white meat keeping it moist. I use a 7-quart oval crock pot similar to this one (amazon affiliate link), which is supposed to be “lead safe”.
What are your favorite ways to flavor a whole chicken? Have you ever tried it in the slow cooker?
- 1 whole chicken, rinsed well inside and out and patted dry
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon paprika (I use Hungarian)
- 1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- dash nutmeg (preferably fresh grated)
- ½ teaspoon crushed red chili peppers (optional, for heat)
- ½ teaspoon unrefined salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (to mix with the spices to make a paste)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- Cut 4 small slits into the skin of the chicken and insert garlic between the skin and the meat - 2 in the breast and 2 in the thighs.
- Place the lemon into the cavity.
- Mix the spices together in a small bowl (coriander, paprika, thyme, cumin, chili powder, ginger, nutmeg, salt & pepper) and combine with the olive oil to make a paste. Rub the mixture all over the chicken, coating evenly.
- Scatter the chopped onion over the bottom of a 7-quart oval slow cooker. Place the chicken on top breast side down.
- Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Mine is always done in 4.
- When done (check with a thermometer and make sure the juices run clear) place the chicken into a roasting pan and broil for 3-5 minutes. If you can adjust the temperature on your broiler, set it to 450. If your only option is 550, just watch it closely to make sure it gets nice and brown but doesn't burn.