Lately I've been extremely busy taking care of two animals with serious illnesses. This doesn't leave me much time to do other chores, including cooking. I am always on the lookout for recipes that are almost effortless anyway, because for me the best part of any dish is the consumption rather than the preparation. Since slow cooker meals don't require a lot of attention from me, they are ideal, especially healthier dishes that don't call for much fat or salt. I recently found this variation on a recipe for Baked Slow Cooker Chicken (I fully intend to try the original recipe one of these days). The variation calls for the addition of liquid so it is technically more of a braised than a baked chicken (minus the browning step), but why quibble? The end result is a flavorful, fall-off-the-bone bird with a pot full of tasty vegetables.
I found the breast meat to be a bit dry, but if you remove the meat from the bones and allow it to sit in the pot juices it will become more moist. I would suggest letting the covered pot stand for a while after removing the bones and before serving. I did wonder if the breast meat would be more juicy if the chicken was cooked back end up rather than front end up, but one site I found pretty much advised against this. I thought it was interesting that most of the commenters recommended not cooking a whole bird in the slow cooker, mainly because the bird falls apart. As far as I am concerned, meat falling off the bone is a good thing, as it will have to come off eventually anyway, and I am spared the extra step of slicing!
This is another recipe with many variations. Some call for different herbs and spices, while others suggest stuffing the cavity with flavorings such as onion, garlic, lemon, or apple. Different liquids can be used, and if you prefer other vegetables in the pot give them a try. A particularly interesting variation calls for removing all skin and fat from the bird, since the cook has a passionate aversion to fat in the cooking liquid! Actually, this is not a bad idea -- it will result in a healthier meal, and the advantage of the slow cooker is that fat is not needed to keep foods moist. I may just try this technique next time, which I am sure will be soon.
Slow Cooker Chicken and Vegetables
1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs.), rinsed and dried
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
black pepper to taste (1/2 tsp. if you like it; I don't so I use a lot less)
1 lb. new potatoes (any color), halved or quartered
1 bag (1 lb.) baby carrots
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/2 C. water mixed with 1/2 tsp. salt (or 1/2 C. chicken broth)
Combine the salt, pepper, and paprika and rub all over the chicken, inside and out. Spray the interior of a slow cooker pot with cooking spray. Place the potatoes, carrots, and onion in the pot, then pour the salt water mixture over. Nestle the chicken into the vegetables. Cover and set the slow cooker on HIGH for one hour, then on LOW for about 8-10 hours or until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. If the white meat is dry, remove from the bones and push down into the pot juices. Allow to stand for about 1/2 hour to moisten the meat before serving. Serves 6.