I’m apparently on a stew streak… Here goes another!
I’ve really developed a taste for carrots in the past few years, despite having a rough history with the vegetable. Carrots were one of those foods I wouldn’t touch as a child. My dad never really cared for them, so I figured it was hereditary. When I first started cooking for myself, though, I decided that I actually kind of liked the soft texture and sweetness of cooked carrots, but forget the raw ones. Now, one of my favorite snacks is hummus and carrot sticks (home-cut carrot sticks *only* – not those weird-tasting carrot chips you can buy at the grocery store). Ah, the joys of growing up and palate maturation.
The March 2009 issue of Everyday Food had a special section on carrots… Despite my penchant for carrot cake (Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, anyone?), I decided to try the Slow-Cooker Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots first. The recipe only takes 10 minutes (!) to put together and I was intrigued by the Moroccan-style seasonings; it’s hard to beat easy *and* flavorful.
First, I peeled 2 pounds of carrots, cut them into 1 1/2-inch lengths, and tossed them into the slow cooker. Next, I combined 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (the recipe just said “skinless,” but boneless worked well), 1 thinly sliced garlic clove, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl. I tossed the mixture until the chicken thighs were completely coated and transferred the entire contents of the bowl to the slow cooker as well.
I put the lid on the slow cooker and cooked the stew on high for 4 hours (on low for 8 hours would work too). At the 3:45 mark, I stirred 1/4 cup of golden raisins into the stew. When the cooking time was complete, I removed the cinnamon stick and used a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and carrots to a serving dish. I topped the chicken with 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves and 1/4 cup of toasted sliced almonds, seasoned the cooking liquid (still in the slow cooker) with salt and pepper to taste, and then spooned the liquid over the chicken and carrots. I served the stew over couscous.
I thought the flavor and texture of this dish were really terrific. The carrots were sweet and tender, the chicken was juicy, and the garlic-cinnamon-cumin-cilantro seasoning really worked. I loved the crunch of the almonds too. I quizzed Dr. O to see if he could guess what the “secret” ingredient was (the cinnamon stick), and he actually got it (on the third try 🙂 ). This dish probably won’t please many “vanilla” eaters, but I think anyone with a relatively adventurous palate would enjoy this. Plus, it’s awfully hard to beat that 10-minute prep time!
TIP: I’ve been using my slow cooker a lot lately, and I’ve noticed a trend. When I cook meat on high for a shorter period of time, the pieces tend to stay intact (but very tender); when I cook meat on low for a longer period of time, it usually falls apart when I try to remove it from the slow cooker. Falling-apart meat can be a beautiful thing, certainly, but I suppose choosing “high” or “low” just depends on how you want to present the meal.
Recipe link: Slow-Cooker Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots