Few people in the world love slow cookers more than I do. I will never be a crazy cat lady living alone with a selection of kitties, but I will be surrounded by my beloved crockpots. At the height of recipe testing for Slow Cooked, I had seven slow cookers in my one bedroom flat and I’ve never been better fed nor warmer.
The only issue was that sometimes I wanted a little bit of bite to my food. Slow cookers do make everything very tender and soft which is both their selling point and their disadvantage to some people. I’ve cheated slightly here and added a non slow cooker step to this chicken stew to further convert the slow cooker sceptics who think it makes everything brown and tasteless.
Chicken thighs were slow cooked with lemon zest, stock, black olives and potatoes. About 20 minutes before the end, I added some chopped kale to wilt it down in the slow cooker and then for my masterstroke: the chicken skin from the thighs was crisped up under the grill and served on top of the stew. When I say it was good, I mean I’ve thought of nothing else all week waking or sleeping….
Crispy Chicken Slow Cooker Stew (serves 4)
- 6 chicken thighs, skinned and boned, skin reserved
- 450g potatoes
- 1/2 celeriac
- 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/2 small jar of black olives
- 2 anchovy fillets
- 50g smoked pork sausage (optional)
- 500ml chicken stock
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 bag of curly kale
This is ridiculously easy to make. If you aren’t fodmapping, an onion would work well here or some sweet potato instead of celeriac. Don’t buy skinless chicken thighs or you’ll lose the magic.
Start by pulling the skin off the chicken thighs carefully in one piece and lay each piece on one sheet of kitchen roll, folding another sheet over the top of it. This will help dry the skin out so that it crisps up better later.
Snip the bones out of the chicken with kitchen scissors and tie them together with a bit of kitchen string. You’re going to pop them into the stew to add flavour but you want them easy to fish out again.
Cut each chicken thigh into six to eight bits and put in the slow cooker crock. Chop the potatoes and celeriac into 1 inch chunks and add along with the lemon zest, lemon juice, chicken stock, olives, whole anchovy fillets, sliced pork sausage and salt and pepper to taste. I used those tinned black olives because I love them and don’t care that they are basically dyed green ones sold on the cheap.
Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook it all on low for 8 hours. About 25 minutes before you want to eat, you need to do two small steps to add crunch and texture to a good, if pedestrian stew.
Firstly, remove the centre stalks from the kale. I detest the way supermarkets sell kale all chopped up with big bits of withered stalk in the middle. Luckily I can get it as a whole leaf and just rip the leaves off the centre which makes it much less bitter. Wash you kale and add it in the slow cooker. Put the lid back on for 40 minutes to allow it to come back up to temperature while wilting the kale.
Secondly, season the chicken skin well and heat your grill as hot as you can without setting the smoke alarm off. Line your grill pan with foil and lay the chicken skin out. Grill for 4-5 minutes under a very hot grill so that the skin bubbles up and becomes crispy. Keep an eye on it as it can go from golden to charred very easily.
Use a sharp knife to cut these chicken skin scratchings into strips. You want to serve them as soon after cooking as possible either on top of the whole crock served at the table or scattered on top of individual dishes of the stew. They don’t reheat well, but you won’t have leftovers when it’s this so that’s academic really.
There’s the perfect mix of bite and crunch and beautifully tender meat and I think this is probably one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. Everything else I ate this week suffered from not being this stew. You need to make it. Trust me. I know slow cookers after all…