There’s a part of Rhode Island fairly well known for something they like to call Family Style Chicken. Each restaurant has its own subtle variation, but, generally speaking, it involves some herbed/salty fall off the bone chicken, pasta with marinara sauce and, if done correctly, both roasted potatoes AND french fries. It really is a meal made in heaven. And I was lucky enough to eat it fairly frequently growing up.
I’ve tried loads of chicken recipes over the years–roasted, baked, in the dutch oven, on the grill, in the slow cooker–all in search of recreating that wondrous fall off the bone preparation. It wasn’t until I came across a marvelously simple approach to cooking a whole bird in the slow cooker that the stars finally aligned.
I don’t think I would have made it through the five months that I had two kids under two without this meal. We ate it every week. Even the engineer started to complain a little (not as much if I served roasted brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes with it). As with most of my bestest recipes, this one is easily adaptable to whatever you have on hand. Only have onions to throw in the bottom of the cooker? No problem. Want to use dried herbs instead? Fantastic. Nothing to stuff into the bird? Who cares. There is actually no way to ruin this preparation. Well, except maybe if you lost power during the day at some point. That would definitely ruin it. Oh, one other word of caution. Don’t mess with the chicken parts. As in, think you’ll be all healthy and use boneless skinless breasts instead. It is possible to substitute split chicken breasts (on the bone, with skin). However, add some liquid (water or chicken stock) prior to cooking, definitely cook on low and don’t expect the results to be quite as moist (although, will still beat baked chicken any day of the week).
One other note–DEFINITELY use your scraps to make chicken stock. This little trick is almost as good as the chicken itself. Once you’ve eaten dinner, return all of the bones, skin, and ickies to the slow cooker. Fill it up with water and throw in whatever you’ve got that may make stock taste good (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns). Cook on low overnight, strain all of the bits out, refrigerate for 24 hours, skim the fat off the top and use or freeze as needed!
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 3 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces (or 1½ cups baby carrots)
- 3 stalks celery, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped (one large or 2 regular sized sprigs)
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 4-5 lb whole chicken
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Slice the onions, carrots and celery and place in the bottom of the slow cooker along with the bay leaves and 3 of the thyme sprigs
- Remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the sprigs and place them along with the garlic, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor (alternatively, chop/mince with a knife)
- Remove the chicken from its packaging
- Remove the neck and innards from the cavity
- Rinse the bird inside and out
- Pat dry with a paper towel and place on top of the onions, carrots and celery, breast side up (note: I accidentally cooked the chicken breast side down and results were equally great, dare I say even moister)
- Stuff the cavity with the lemon quarters
- Smear the rosemary mixture over the skin of the bird and drizzle the olive oil over the mixture to moisten it slightly
- Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 5