Mindfulness and self-soothing are on my mind these days. We’ve been caught up in a flurry of life cycles that all seem untimely. Births, deaths and marriages, a few on the same day. I seem to be consistently learning the lesson that life is unpredictable and that every day is not a guarantee. It’s a painful and exhausting lesson to learn when it pierces through the veil of denial we wear and the sense of order we all need to function. It takes time to bring these things back intact. You can’t accelerate the process, you can’t abbreviate it. The pace is slow and hesitant, there are no shortcuts. As people shine or fade around you it’s important to remember to nourish yourself.
I’ve spoken before about how roasted chicken is my ultimate comfort food. It’s a battle against hardship, a testament to perseverance, growing roots, expanding broken branches of love, loss, remembrance, gathering and nourishment. It’s no coincidence that most cultures believe that chicken soup cures everything. This week the impulse to cook chicken called to me strongly. I approached it in a way where the flavors would act as a weather-worn cloak with familiar frayed seams, witness to old beautiful memories. That’s just what this recipe is. Infused with garlic and herbs and built atop sturdy vegetables, the chicken cooks slowly, deliberately and falls gently off the bone.
I visited my parents last weekend and when I woke up, this is what was in the air. My mother was making this exact recipe. Cooked in this manner, the chicken is extremely moist and produces a flavorful stock that can be used as a broth for soup or a gravy. The skin doesn’t brown since the chicken is essentially braised with the moisture produced from the chicken and vegetables, so I used a combination of paprika and just a touch of soy sauce to help it along. If you want a deeply golden crust, simply transfer the cooked chicken to a baking sheet or roasting pan and place under the broiler for 5 minutes or until desired color.
The best part about this chicken is that the actual prep time is minimal. Who doesn’t love when something cooks itself, but tastes like you’ve slaved for days over an open flame? I don’t typically use the slow cooker because I like the processes involved with being present, but walking into the apartment redolent with smells of home after a full day of witness interviews and an hour at the gym really feels like winning.
SLOW ROASTED CHICKEN
- 1 4-5 pound chicken, giblets removed
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces baby carrots or whole peeled carrots chopped into 2-inch pieces
- 4 small sweet potatoes, halved
- 1 parsnip, roughly chopped
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- Handful of cilantro
- 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
Rinse the chicken well and pat dry. Mix the kosher salt and paprika together and season the chicken generously with the kosher salt mixture and freshly ground black pepper. Rub with soy sauce.
Scatter the vegetables in the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker then place the seasoned chicken on top of the vegetables so they act as a shelf for the chicken.
Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F and the juices run clear.
Remove the chicken from the stock and let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes. If serving immediately, cut the chicken into pieces. You can serve the vegetables with the chicken or strain the vegetables from the broth and save the broth for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 3 months.
Or if you want shredded chicken, allow the chicken to cool for about 15 minutes then shred with two forks and refrigerate for up to 3 days.