If I were in a relationship with my crock-pot on Facebook, our status would say, “It’s complicated.” When we began our relationship several years ago, I had such high hopes. We were going to make such beautiful meals together… but after months of trying to make it work, I had to admit it: the little orange light was on, but the romance wasn’t there.
I know, I know; crock-pots are supposed to be God’s gift to the modern cook, creating slow-cooked flavor and fall-off-the-bone-meats with little effort or prep time. And there are plenty of people who swear by them; whole blogs and Pinterest boards devoted to slow-cooker recipes. But I’ve tried some of those recipes, hoping desperately to fall in love with my crock-pot the way these cooks clearly had with theirs, to no avail. Like a one-night stand, I was often left with a bad taste in my mouth – literally. The veggies felt limp, all the dishes were too liquid-y, and I missed the seared-in flavor of sauteing. My crock-pot and I, it seemed, had irreconcilable differences, and were bound to meet but once a month to take care of the necessities – namely, brewing up some stock.
Until Cooking Light published their slow-cooker issue. As you may know, I trust Cooking Light implicitly, and some of those recipes looked pretty tasty, so I thought, I’ll give it one last shot. If Cooking Light can’t make an absolutely to-die-for slow-cooker recipe, then nobody can, and I could call it quits, having confidently given it my all.
I am happy to report that my crock-pot and I have now found some common ground, and are working on our issues over regular dinners. Starting with this Morrocan-inspired Chicken-Chickpea Tagine.
Oh, and here are some other helpful slow-cooking tips from Cooking Light.
Slow-Cooker Chicken Chickpea Tagine
adapted slightly from Cooking Light
Serves 6; Total time: 7 hours, 20 minutes (20 minutes active time)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2.5 lbs bone-in skinless chicken thighs (bone-in is GREAT for the crock-pot, and thighs are super flavorful)
- 1 1/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh garlic
- 1 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp red pepper
- 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
- 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick (you can also use 1/2 tsp cinnamon if you don’t have sticks)
- 2/3 cup chopped dried fruit of any kind (original recipe calls for apricots; I had a mix of raisins, cranberries, and cherries)
- 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (DO rinse – it gets some of the sodium off)
- 1 cup carrots, chopped (my addition – do not skip)
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Optional: serve with couscous, quinoa, or your other favorite grain.
Brown one side of the chicken
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle meaty side of chicken with 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Add chicken to pan, meaty side down; cook 5 minutes or until well browned. Remove from pan and set aside – you’re only browning one side.
Make those onions nice ‘n spicy
Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté a few minutes. Add all the ground spices and “toast” for 1 minute, stirring constantly. This allows the spices to bloom and I think is the key to the amazing flavor of this dish.
Add remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, stock, honey, and cinnamon stick, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; bring to a simmer.
Combine it all and turn on the slow-cooker
Pour onion mixture into a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Stir in dried fruit, carrots, and chickpeas. (The onions will all but disappear after so long in the cooker, but they add a wonderful flavor. If you want to really SEE your onions, slice them instead of chopping them.)
Place chicken, browned side up, on top of chickpea mixture. Resist the urge to stir – this makes so much brothy goodness, everything will mix itself together on its own, trust me.
Cover and cook on LOW for 7 hours (or, you know, 9 hours, like I did. I WISH I were only gone from the house for 7 hours on a workday…)
Discard cinnamon stick, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with a grain if you wish, or eat as-is for a low-carb, high-protein meal. Leftovers are AWESOME.