I thought of it too late—I’d already plopped the frozen chicken legs in the slow cooker, then I went looking for my trusty bottle of barbecue sauce. I always have one on hand, just in case. For this recipe. Except not this time. Now I had frozen, raw, naked chicken legs sitting in my slow cooker. I could put them in a new freezer bag, then wash out the slow cooker crock, or… I could just make something different with the chicken.
Everybody needs emergency slow cooker recipes. You know the ones—only a few ingredients—zip, zap, zoom, dinner’s done. “Barbecue” chicken is one of mine. Frozen chicken legs, check. Bottle of barbecue sauce, check. Into the slow cooker, press the button, dinner is served. Six or ten hours later. That’s it. It’s really that easy.
Alas. Not this time. I looked in the fridge to see what I could do, and decided to make a barbecue sauce myself. It would add a few dishes and ten minutes or so to my plan, but all in all still a respectably easy dinner. Probably. Maybe even healthier, since I don’t keep a bottle (or a vial, or whatever) of sodium benzoate in the fridge (that seems to be a requisrite ingredient in a lot of store bought sauces).
I started my own homemade version of Cutthroat Kitchen, gathering ingredients for my sauce. I had to ask myself, what are the flavors in barbecue sauce? Definitely a tomato base (ketchup), some zip (garlic), and some zing (Worcestershire sauce). I mixed them all up. Nope. Not yet. It needed something sweet, so I thought I’d go to my favorite secret sweet ingredient—apricot jelly. I’ve used it in another barbecue-type sauce, and I thought it would work well.
Here’s where the Cutthroat Kitchen came in. The apricot jelly had a big mold spot on it! I’ve never seen moldy jelly before. Ever. We keep our jelly for like a hundred years, and it’s never gotten moldy before. And I just opened this one a month ago. So I pitched it, furrowed my brow, and went searching in my pantry for another. Voila—I had one. The only problem was that when I opened it, there was old dried jelly smeared around the threads of the screw top cap, on the outside of the jar. It did make a satisfying “pop” when I opened it, but since it had that crusty old jelly around the opening, it made me nervous. So I pitched it (when in doubt, throw it out…). What would I use for the sweetness? I did have brown sugar and honey home, but I was hoping for something a little different. I searched the fridge, and saw the leftover applesauce from the veggie latkes, and a new recipe was born.
I added the applesauce, along with cinnamon for kick. I have to say, it smelled great, and while it was cooking I wanted to eat everything in the house.
Was the chicken tasty? Definitely. Was it good barbecue sauce? Absolutely not. It wasn’t barbecue sauce at all. It was missing some major “barbecue” flavors. But it was delicious. If I were to change anything, I would make more next time, so there would be extra sauce to serve with the chicken. When you slow cook chicken legs, they end up in a pool of juices—the only sauce left is what’s left on top.
The moral of this story is that sometimes you won’t have all the ingredients, and then you have to wing it. That’s okay—it’s actually good. If I hadn’t given this new recipe a try, I wouldn’t know how delicious it is. I took some flavors that I know I like, and I mixed them together to try something new. That’s the good thing about cooking—you get to be a mad scientist every so often. Perhaps you’re wearing an apron instead of a lab coat, and measuring cups aren’t exactly beakers (but they’re close). Your experiment probably won’t explode (let’s hope), but it might change colors, and it definitely will change flavors.
Apple "Barbecue" Chicken
7 – 10 Pieces of chicken legs or thighs, frozen
1 Cup ketchup
1 Cup applesauce
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Bottle of barbecue sauce
For sauce: Mix sauce ingredients. Or open bottle of favorite barbecue sauce.
Place frozen chicken legs in slow cooker. Pour or spread sauce on top of chicken, reserving some to serve with it later.
Set slow cooker for 4 – 6 hours on high, or 8 – 10 hours on low.
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Filed under: Dinner