Monday, December 17

Slow Cooker Chicken alla Pizzaiola

In my kitchen the week before Christmas is defined by simple, easy, everyday meals, and my crock pot works overtime.  With the extra baking for holiday get-togethers, class parties, and cookies for Santa, I like to keep dinners simple and stress-free.  After all, don't we all need a bit of simplicity this time of year?

Chicken alla Pizzaiola was created with my kids' two favourite foods in mind: pizza and chicken.  Alla pizzaiola means in the style of the pizza maker, and is most commonly characterized by a rich, herb-y, tomato-based sauce; however, it can refer to anything that combines the flavours of pizza.  Tomatoes, oregano, bell pepper, garlic all form the foundation of this dish, and I like to think that this is how a pizza maker would prepare chicken.  Since my kids have been asking for chicken legs (what they call "chicken on the bone") for a while, I decided to surprise them with a fun variation of their favourites.

The chicken is slowly simmered in a mélange of white wine with a touch of fish sauce until so tender and moist that it's nearly falling off the bone.  Our favourite pizza toppings blanket the chicken and marry into the perfect pizza-esque sauce.  Consequently, the whole house smells like one of the finest pizzerias around, and your family will be salivating long before dinner is ready.  I served it over a bed of pasta tossed with brown butter and parmesan cheese. 

You may be asking, Fish sauce in wine?  Really?  Yes, the fish sauce is imperceptible but its savory, meatiness (what some call umami) adds the perfect balance of flavour to this dish, and it mimics the anchovies we love on our pizza.  It can be left out if you're really adverse, but I wouldn't recommend it.  If you don't happen to have fish sauce you could break an anchovy fillet into the wine.  It will disappear into the sauce as the dish cooks.

This meal is so simple and, except for the addition of olives and parsley at the end, there are virtually no finishing steps which makes it perfect for these hectic days of long lines and last minute shopping.

Wishing you a stress-free final countdown to Christmas!

Slow Cooker Chicken alla Pizzaiola

12 chicken legs, rinsed and patted dry
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1/4 cup sauvignon blanc
1/4 tsp fish sauce (or 1 anchovy fillet, broken into small pieces)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, sliced
4 oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
1 tsp herbes de Provence
3/4 tsp sea salt
black pepper to taste
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
4 oz. whole, pitted black or Kalamata olives
a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Spray the insert of a large slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.  Spread the onions evenly over the bottom of the pot.  Place the chicken in a single layer on  top of the onions (if your slow cooker isn't large enough to fit all the chicken in one layer remember to season the chicken on the bottom before starting a second layer.)  Mix the wine with the fish sauce and pour over the chicken.  Spread the garlic, bell pepper, and tomatoes over the chicken.  Sprinkle everything with the herbs, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Cook on low 6 - 8 hours, or on high 4 - 5 hours.  Add the olives during the last half hour and cook on high for 30 minutes longer.  Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve over pasta, or with good, crusty bread.

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