Monday, December 13, 2010

No culinary skills? That's a crock...

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m no Martha Stewart. My expertise simply does not extend to the domestic arena. It’s always been that way. As a child, I often spent summers visiting my grandparents at their farm in Mississippi. My grandmother was an awesome cook, however, I avoided the kitchen like the plague. I was interested only in sitting down at the table just as the food was laid out, and woofing down the results of her hours of slaving over a hot stove. The rest of the time, I was outside riding horses and pretending to be a cowboy.

I’m the girl who, at eighteen, stood in front of a washing machine at the laundromat with my new husband and asked, “how do you turn it on?” And our kitchen was like a foreign country…one of those cold, barren, eastern European countries where a pair of stiff ill-fitting blue jeans costs $200, and everything has beets in it. In other words…uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I’d never cooked with gas, and our crappy little apartment stove had two settings…high…and off. So, everything I cooked was burned on the outside and raw in the middle. My only attempt at making homemade biscuits turned out twelve perfect hockey pucks. Once, I torched the kitchen curtains over the sink, trying to put out a skillet fire. As I pitched the flaming pan into the parking lot, the guy who lived next door drove up and asked , “trying to cook again, huh?” Unfortunately, it was downhill from there.

And you know what? I’m ok with that. I’ve made peace with the absence of a domestic gene and my lack of culinary skills. Eating out is great. Good food…no cleanup. Take-out? Good food…minimal cleanup. The thing is, unless you have enough money to eat out every night, or you’re lucky enough to have your own personal chef, you really do HAVE to cook occasionally. Hence, my love affair with the crock pot. Crock pot dinner? Good food…almost impossible to screw up!

I have a recipe for crock pot Moroccan chicken that’s so easy it’s embarrassing, yet it looks and tastes wonderfully complex. You get your meat…you get your veggies, dried fruit, spices and chicken broth…and you throw them in a pot and walk away. When you return with a baguette from Eatzi’s that you picked up on the way home from work, your dinner is hot and bubbly and ready to eat. Leftovers for two or three more meals later in the week…one big pot to wash…it’s a no-brainer….and here it is!



4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
2 lbs skinless chicken pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricot, coarsely chopped
1 (14 ounce) can chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
ground black pepper
hot cooked couscous (whole wheat preferred)
pine nuts, toasted
fresh cilantro (optional)


1 In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker place carrots and onions.

2 Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3 Add to cooker; top chicken with raisins and apricots.

4 In bowl whisk broth, tomato paste, flour, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and the ground black pepper.

5 Add to cooker. 6 Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 6-1/2 to 7 hours (or on high-heat setting for 3-1/2 to 4 hours). 7 Serve in bowls with couscous. 8 Sprinkle with nuts. 9 Garnish with cilantro.



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