It might not feel like a slow-cooker day, but this spicy Caribbean stew/curry is perfect patio food for the cooler evenings. I made it originally for a dinner party and it was a hit thanks to the perfectly tender and flavourful chicken thighs. You really can’t mess up slow-cooker chicken. So for everyone who wants to feel a little gourmet with only a little bit of effort, here’s the trick:
Slow-Cooker Caribbean Chicken with Squash and Lime
adapted from The 150 Best Slow-Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson
1 tbsp oil
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts, chopped into 1″ cubes (I used two large breasts and 4-6 thighs)
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice (if you can grate fresh, do it!)
1 tsp cinnamon and 1 two-inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 serrano chili or 1/2 a scotch bonnet, minced (or 1-2 tsp chili powder depending on heat)
4 cups cubed squash*. Acorn or kabocha are great. Buttercup or butternut work in a pinch but aren’t as creamy or flavourful. If you can find those huge gnarly, green and yellow pumpkins that are sold in giant wedges, do.
1/2 cup low-sodium, organic chicken broth (homemade is best, but who does that? Admittedly, I do, and then freeze it in 500 mL containers…)
Zest of 1 lime
3-4 tbsp lime juice
Fresh cilantro, to garnish
First brown the chicken pieces in the oil (preheat a large skillet over high heat, add the oil, then add the chicken when the oil’s hot. Sprinkle with half the salt. Don’t touch it for about 2 minutes, then turn the pieces. They should be browned, not just “not pink” anymore. If they’re just white, turn up the heat and flip them back over. Then turn and brown on the other side. Don’t touch for another minute. Rotate the pieces again. Brown. You can do the fourth side, five side, and 6th side if the pieces stand, but I usually just do it on two or three sides. It depends how rushed I am).
Transfer chicken using a slotted spoon to a slow-cooker. You can pat it down with paper towel to soak up excess fat, but it’s flavourful so it’s your call. It’ll still be plenty juicy and tender without the excess fat. Drain the skillet of excess fat, reserving a thin coating to fry the onions. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Cook the onions for about 4 minutes then add the garlic, ginger, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, and chili. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
Add squash to the slow-cooker on top of the chicken pieces. Pour contents of skillet over top. Stir to combine, but it’s fine to leave the chicken on the bottom. Anyone know if you can use a metal spoon here? Will it hurt the ceramic slow-cooker stonewear?
Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 4-5. To serve, stir in the lime zest and juice (start with 3 tbsp juice, taste, and add more if necessary) and scoop onto a bed of rice on individual plates or a large platter. Garnish with cilantro.
*Peeling the squash can be annoying. I use a chef’s knife to chop it in half, scrape out the seeds and pulp (I either wash and toast the seeds with salt and pepper until brown on a baking sheet, or discard them. It can be a lot of work), and peel it using a vegetable peeler. You can also use a knife, since, depending on the squash, the flesh near the skin can be pretty tough. So I don’t care about slicing off a little bit extra. Cutting up the whole squash, even if you only need 4 cups, is a good idea. Then you can steam it and puree it into a mashed potato replacement, or roast it with the same spices as above and a little oil in a 415°F oven for 10 minutes. Rotate and cook 5-10 minutes more. Heaven.