I haven't been too creative in the kitchen lately. Sometimes I get a little carried away with the possibilities and will buy ingredients for two or more preparations for the same ingredients and not realize it until I get home and have too many options. The end result is usually less than satisfying whichever way I choose to go. I had not been terribly pleased with anything I had created in a while. Perhaps that's another reason I have been taking refuge in the comfort of old stand-by recipes.
The weekend before last I had bought some chicken legs so I thought I might take a stab at some kind of Marsala with mushrooms, peppers and sweet cream Sherry I use for my Mexican Wine Cookies and which usually gets a little questionable before I can use it up. So off to the grocery store I went to get the mushrooms, peppers and some shallots I thought would make it a little classier than if I just used plain old onions.
And on the way home from the grocery store I stopped at Best Buy purely on an instant-gratification impulse and bought myself a George Foreman grill. Before you laugh, let me tell you how this came about. They have one at work and my boss was grilling herself a beautiful tuna steak in it and she said to me, "You have to get one of these." And her tuna steak did look beautiful and easy, smelled heavenly, and cooked itself smokeless (unlike the "Great Grill-Pan Lamb Chop Smoke Disaster of 1999" which set off my smoke detector and left a greasy pall in my apartment for over a week even if it was the best damned lamp chop I ever had at home). So I thought maybe it was time I considered getting one. What finally decided it for me was when she mentioned that her mother even roasted vegetables in it. Visions of roasted peppers, eggplant, and zucchini danced in my head. And then, whenever I mentioned to any of my friends that I was thinking of getting one, they all either had one themselves or had friends who used them regularly.
So I bought it and brought it home and, having no self-control whatsoever, decided I had to use it right then and there. So I cup the peppers in half, brushed them with olive oil, and threw them on the grill. I had to do it in two batches, even with the larger grill I had opted to buy, but it only took about 20 minutes for both. They peeled relatively easily after sitting in a saran-wrap covered bowl. So ok, the GF Grill was a good thing. (I have since grilled a lamb chop in it with just a little, manageable amount of smoke. It was delicious).
The only problem was that I had roasted a major component of my Chicken Marsala dish. It so discouraged me that I threw the chicken legs into the freezer and ended up sauteeing the mushrooms and shallots with the sherry and eating them for dinner that night. But my freezer is still too full, even with all my work on Operation Freezer Burn, so I took them back out last weekend and started thinking about what I should do with them.
I didn't feel like putting a lot of time and effort into it, so I decided to use the slow cooker. I really liked the slow cooker drumsticks I made last summer so I thought I would do something along those lines. Early Sunday morning I cut a large onion into eighths and put it in the bottom of the cooker, added the chicken legs and seasoned them with salt, garlic powder, pepper, and a ton of Hungarian sweet paprika. I had planned to make Muhammara with the roasted peppers, but they were still sitting in a bowl on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator waiting to go bad so I applied triage and threw them in with the chicken legs. I added some red wine and a little bit of water, turned the cooker on, and let it go until late afternoon.
The chicken had cooked beautifully, and the paprika had infused everything with a deep rusty reddish-brown tone. The cooking liquid looked and smelled divine, but it was thin and there was a lot of it so I needed to figure out a way to make some kind of sauce with it. Inspiration hit and I put it into a saucepan and brought out my super-duper handy-dandy hand blender and pureed it. I mixed a couple of tablespoons of the sauce with a tablespoon of flour and poured that back in and let the whole thing simmer for about an hour while I cooked up some brown rice.
The end result was absolutely delicious. The sauce was thick and rich; chicken tender and full of flavor. It was just the success I needed in the kitchen to motivate me to keep experimenting and creating. Which is a really good thing because the farmers markets are just now starting up again for the season here in Chicago and I am raring to go.
Slow Cooker Chicken Legs Paprikash with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
1-2 large onions
4-6 roasted, skinned and seeded red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
8 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks), skin removed
1/2 cup red wine or Sherry
1/2 cup water
salt to taste
garlic powder to taste
black pepper to taste
2-3 Tbsp Hungarian sweet paprika
1 Tbsp flour
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Cut onion(s) into wedges and layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Add the roasted peppers. Lay four of the the chicken legs over the vegetables and season to taste with the salt, garlic powder and pepper. Sprinkle half the paprika liberally, making sure every piece of chicken is well coated; repeat with the other four chicken legs.
Carefully pour in the wine and the water, avoiding the chicken so the spices don't wash off. Set slow cooker to low and cook, 6-8 hours or until chicken is done.
Remove chicken from slow cooker and keep warm. Pour the liquid into a three-quart saucepan and, using a hand blender, puree the mixture. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the liquid into a small bowl and add 1 tablespoon of flour. Mix thoroughly, making sure there are no lumps. Pour back into the saucepan with the pureed sauce. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about one hour, while you prepare brown rice.
Serve the chicken over the brown rice and spoon the sauce liberally over the chicken and the rice. Garnish with parsley and serve.