As the shorter days of autumn settle in, this is the time when many of us return home in the dark. Windswept leaves line the road; the stars twinkle brightly, and frost crunches beneath our feet. Our eating patterns shift from fresh salsa and salads to stews and heartier meals. It’s time to break out the slow cooker or crock-pot.
In 1971, the Rival Company (known for it invention of the electric can opener in 1955) introduced their revolutionary countertop appliance, the Crock Pot. Although it was marketed as device to help the busy working woman serve her family homemade food, it really was no more than an electric embodiment of a centuries-old method of food preparation: one pot cooking.
Slow cooking of food is not just a technique or a piece of equipment, but it is also a mindset. Blending ingredients and allowing the flavors to simmer together produces delicious results. The low temperature and long cooking times makes economical cuts of meat, like lamb shanks or pot roasts, tender and succulent. Respect your ingredients, and they will reward you with good food.
In the recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan, the rind of the Parmesan cheese adds a depth of flavor to the stew, and enhances the dark, rich red color of the broth. Seasoned with basil and oregano, this dish gets an extra kick from hot pepper flakes. We enjoy it prepared with rabbit. Chopped, braised spinach or kale would be nice complements in lieu of a salad, plenty of crusty bread, and Maine applesauce for dessert.
SLOW COOKER CHICKEN PARMESAN
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- 1 16 ounce jar Genovese Basil Pasta & Pizza Sauce or 2 cups canned tomatoes
- 2 - 3 pounds chicken on the bone or rabbit
- 4 cups chicken stock 1 quart
- ½ cup chopped onion 1 small
- ½ teaspoon each dried basil & oregano
- ½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes more or less to taste
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese rind about ½ Parmesan cheese
- 4 ounces whole-wheat pasta (penne, rotini, elbow)
- Add the garlic cloves, bell pepper, onion, and cheese rind to the bowl of your slow cooker.
- Place the chicken or rabbit pieces on top, then cover with the sauce and chicken stock. Add the dried herbs and hot pepper flakes. Cook on low heat for 6 – 7 hours.
- Carefully remove the meat from the sauce, and pick the meat from the bones, discarding the bones. Shred the meat and return it to the pot. Taste the sauce for seasonings, and adjust as necessary.
- Add the pasta and cook on high until the pasta is al dente.
- Spoon into bowls and garnish with grated cheese.