It’s almost Thanksgiving!
I love this time of year. The weather in my neighborhood cools down to a perfect 78 degrees, and everyone starts to get super festive with get togethers, holiday activities, and lots of yummy food. I had my girlfriends over on Saturday evening for a potluck and jewelry party (you can check out my friend Chun’s dainty pieces here), and my contribution to the dinner table was this Slow Cooker Chicken Curry that turned out to be a hit. I make this dish probably 2-3 times a month, and I almost always put it on the menu if we are entertaining guests. Aside from being a crowd pleaser (it’s even kid-approved), it’s an easy, fool-proof recipe that requires little prep time, and then the slow cooker does the majority of the work for you.
I used to make my curry with a can of organic diced tomatoes and a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste, but last week I started on a modified version of the Autoimmune Protocol Diet, which sadly does not include tomatoes or any of the nightshade vegetables. It may sound like an extreme way of eating, especially since I don’t actually have autoimmune disease, but this anti-inflammatory diet has already improved my digestion and lessened my fatigue symptoms in just 6 days, so it’s 100% worth it to me to stick with this eating plan for now.
To make my Slow Cooker Chicken Curry nightshade free, I used puréed pumpkin in place of the tomato, and it turned out wonderfully! I thought that the pumpkin would be a perfect substitute for the tomato because of it’s slightly tart flavor, and because it goes so well with spices such as cinnamon, clove, and cardamom. You can’t taste the pumpkin in the curry, but it gives the dish a beautiful color, a boost of fiber and nutrients such as beta carotene, and it blends with the coconut milk and spices to create a deeply flavorful sauce. If anyone in your family is finicky about eating their vegetables, this is a fantastic way to sneak some veggies into their diets. I’m sharing a batch of this at Nikhil’s Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow at school, and I am curious to see how the parents and kids like it!
Whether you are looking for a seasonal alternative to the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, or wanting to add a hearty slow cooker meal into your weekly rotation, I hope you try this out and enjoy it as much as we do!
Prep time: about 25 minutes Cook time: 5-6 hours Servings: 10-12 (you’ll have leftovers for sure)
4-5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 cup pure pumpkin purée (canned or homemade)
1 14 oz can full fat coconut milk
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into large chunks
5 cloves garlic, peeled
2 inch chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1.5 tsp ground turmeric
6 whole cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
15 turns of the pepper mill
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Note: If you would like to try my original recipe that calls for tomato, simply replace the pumpkin purée with one 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, plus 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and omit the cinnamon stick. Add the diced tomatoes to the blender with the coconut milk, ginger, garlic, and onion, and purée until smooth, then add this sauce to the chicken and dry spices. The rest of the recipe remains the same. If you’d like to make the pumpkin recipe, but can tolerate tomatoes, I highly recommend adding a tablespoon or two of tomato paste to your curry. It gives the dish a beautiful depth and really brings everything together. If you are sticking to the pumpkin recipe, be sure to add lots of lemon juice to taste, as it will brighten the curry and tie the flavors together.
Rinse your chicken under cold water, and shake off as much water as possible. Trim any excess fat from the chicken thighs, and cut the meat into large chunks. Place the chicken in the pot of your slow cooker, and get started on the sauce. Place the coconut milk, onion, garlic, and ginger into a high speed blender or food processor, and blend on high until smooth. Pour this mixture over the chicken, then add the pumpkin, and all of the spices- cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, salt, and pepper- and give it a good stir. Cover the pot, and turn your slow cooker to the low setting. Let it do its job for 4 or 5 hours, then turn the setting to high, and crack the lid so that the steam can escape and the sauce can reduce, stirring occasionally. I usually do this in the last hour or 2. Alternatively, you can leave it on low for 8 hours overnight, or while you’re gone during the day, and you most likely won’t need to let the sauce reduce. When you are ready to serve, stir in the lemon and cilantro, and do a taste test. Add more salt and/or lemon if necessary, to taste. Serve with rice, quinoa, or chapati. I like to eat mine drizzled with virgin coconut oil and a squeeze of lemon, with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and a dollop of green chutney. For a little kick, I suggest adding some Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday filled with love, gratitude, and good food. I am certainly grateful for all of you.