Recipes: Crock Pot Cooking


Chef Alyssa Wilen teaches hands-on cooking classes in South End’s Atherton Market. Before that, she worked in the restaurant industry for more than 10 years. Learn more about Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen at

IT'S THE RIGHT SEASON to get out your slow cooker for some warm and healthy dishes. I’ve created three recipes that are staples at my house—ones I think you’ll love, too. 

Beef and Butternut Squash Chili

Serves 6 to 8

2 pounds ground beef
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced in ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
12 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons Aleppo chili pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
2 teaspoons salt
1 13-ounce can tomato purée

1. Set up a 4-quart slow cooker and place the ground beef and butternut squash inside.
2. On the stovetop, heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring frequently until soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.  
3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant.
4. Add all of the spices and salt and cook until the ingredients toast and become a paste, about 1 minute.
5. Pour in the tomato purée and bring to a simmer; meanwhile, set the slow cooker to high. 
6. Pour the contents of the pan over the ingredients in the slow cooker, using a spoon to combine everything. Cover.
7. Leave the heat on high for the first half-hour, then reduce the heat to low and cook the chili for another 3 ½  hours.
8.  Adjust seasoning and serve with zucchini jalapeno cornbread (See recipe online).

Harissa and Lemon Chicken with Olives and Baby Potatoes

Serves 4 to 6

1 whole chicken, broken down to breasts, legs, and thighs, bone-in and skin-on
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons harissa paste
1 teaspoon sumac
Juice of three lemons
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons ghee
1 pound baby new potatoes
½ cup olives, black and green
¾ cup chicken stock
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly chopped parsley and cilantro for garnish

1. In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of harissa paste with sumac, lemon juice, and olive oil.
2. Place the chicken in a plastic bag and pour in the harissa marinade. Rub the marinade into the chicken and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.
3. Cut the potatoes in half and place them in the base of a 4-quart slow cooker. Add the olives and chicken stock; sprinkle in some salt and pepper.
4. Arrange the marinated chicken on top of the potatoes, skin-side up, and set the heat on low.
5. Cover and cook for 6 hours.
6. Lift the chicken from the slow cooker and place on a sheet pan, skin-side up, leaving the potatoes in the pot.
7. Set oven on broil and arrange the top rack to be on the second position, so as not to be too close to the heat. Broil the chicken for 5-6 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the skin is golden brown and crisp.
8. Meanwhile, melt the butter and extra 2 tablespoons of harissa paste into the sauce and potatoes left in the slow cooker. Serve as the base for the chicken and garnish with the fresh herbs.

Vegetable and Chickpea Stew

Serves 6 

½ cup chickpeas
6 cups water
2 bay leaves
10-12 Brussels sprouts
2 medium Italian eggplants, diced to 1” pieces
2 tablespoons vadouvan spice mix
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ teaspoons salt
Garnish: Greek yogurt and red onion pickles (recipe follows) 

1. Soak the chickpeas in 4 cups room temperature water, covered, for 4 hours, then drain. (If soaking the chickpeas longer than 4 hours, place in the refrigerator). 
2. Place the chickpeas and remaining ingredients in the crockpot and cook on high for 3 hours.
3. Adjust seasoning and serve with quinoa and topped with yogurt and pickles.

Red onion pickles:
2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 small red beet, sliced into paper-thin rounds
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 small red onions, thinly sliced

1. Place all ingredients except for the onion in a pot and bring to a rapid boil; stir to dissolve the sugar.
2. Add the onions to the pot and turn off the heat. 
3. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate, allowing the onions to marinate as they cool down. 
4. The pickles will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks.

Chef Alyssa Wilen teaches hands-on cooking classes in South End’s Atherton Market. Before that, she worked in the restaurant industry for more than 10 years. Learn more about Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen at  

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