How to Cook French Recipes in a Slow Cooker

French recipes for the slow cooker? You bet! Many of the France’s best recipes—especially the soups and stews, and hearty braises—are perfect for slow-cooking. Here, I’ll show you how to adapt any viable French recipe to your slow cooker.

Vermouth-Braised Chicken with Olives and Prosciutto. Done in a little less than an hour, and most of that is hands-off braising time.

Vermouth-Braised Chicken with Olives and Prosciutto. A great French Chicken recipe for the slow-cooker. See recipe, below.

But first: Shortcuts to My Favorite French Slow-Cooker Recipes on This Site:

My French Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker
My Beef Pot Roast in the Slow Cooker (Pot au Feu in the Slow Cooker)
French Chicken in the Slow Cooker.

And now: How to Adapt French Recipes to a Slow Cooker:

The other night, I was working with a local French chef on one of our seasonal Chef-Bonne Femme dinners. In the dining room, a guest said that while he loved my book, he was a huge fan of the slow-cooker—and he wondered why I didn’t have any slow-cooker recipes in the book.

The main reason is that my book is all about how French women cook today—and I have yet to meet a woman in France who owns a slow-cooker.

But, as I always say, just because the French don’t do something, doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea! Yes—you can cook beautifully authentic French dinners in a slow cooker: But you have to choose the right recipe and tap into a few concepts.

Follow these guidelines for adapting your favorite French stews and braises (including recipes in my Bonne Femme Cookbook) to the slow cooker:

Choose French recipes that call on tough cuts that are great simmering cuts. In my book, the following cuts come to mind: beef and lamb stew meat, beef short ribs, pork shoulder, meaty chicken pieces (legs and thighs, especially), bone-in pork chops, lamb blade chops and baby-back pork ribs. Recipes for these meats are in the Roast, Stew, or Braise chapter of my book.

Find another slow-cooker recipe you know and trust that calls on the same kind of meat in roughly the same amount. You’ll use the cook times in this recipe as a guideline for your French recipe.

Your slow cooker should always be at least 1/2 full, but less than 2/3 full. So when you’re at the meat counter, consider the size of your slow cooker, and go up or down on the amount of meat, vegetables, and liquids as needed to achieve this volume.

Yes. The French use slow cookers, but they're not nearly as ubiquitous as they are in the US.

Yes. The French use slow cookers (they’re called a “mijoteuse”–a simmer-er), but they’re not nearly as ubiquitous as they are in the US.

• Trim excess fat from the meat and cut the meat as needed to fit into the cooker.

• Brown the meat as indicated in the recipe. Place it in the slow cooker. Follow instructions for preparing the cooking liquid (in my recipes, usually this includes sauteing onions and garlic and adding some wine, broth and seasonings, and cooking it down a bit). However, use only one-half the amount of liquids called for in the French recipe. (That is, if a recipe calls for 1/2 cup vermouth and 1/2 cup chicken stock, use 1/4 cup of each).

• Pour the cooking liquid over the meats. Cook according to the timings given in your tried-and-true slow-cooker recipe, checking at the earliest point in the range given.

• If there are finishing touches to the original French recipe (such as olives and prosciutto added at the end of cooking, or pearl onions and mushrooms sauteed toward the end of cooking), do this about 1/2 hour before your recipe is finished.

• If the French recipe calls for removing the meat and simmering the liquids to reduce them, you can do this in the slow cooker, uncovered, on high. It may take a while, so if you’re in a hurry, transfer the liquids to a pan and do this atop the stove.

To test this strategy, I gave my Vermouth-Braised Chicken with Black Olive and Prosciutto a try. It worked beautifully, though I must say that the chicken was done in much shorter time than I expected (2 hours rather than 3 to 4 hours as per the slow-cooker recipe I used as a guideline). So check your meats—especially chicken—often. Also, I love serving this with Any-Night Baked Rice.

 

Olive-Prosciutto Chicken for the Slow Cooker

Olive-Prosciutto Chicken: I traditionally make this in my braiser, but you can also make it in a slow cooker. Here’s the braiser recipe, if you prefer that over a slow-cooker.


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How to Cook French Recipes in a Slow Cooker
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This recipe for Vermouth-Braised Chicken with Black Olives and Prosciutto is an easy lesson in how to adapt French recipes for the slow cooker.
Ingredients
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup dry vermouth
  • ¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbes de Provence, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup pitted imported black olives, such as Nyons and Niçoise
  • ¼ cup finely diced prosciutto or cooked and crumbled pancetta
Instructions
  1. Season the thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil a large skillet over medium-high heat; add the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Transfer the chicken to the slow cooker and drain off all but a sheen of fat from the skillet.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is tender; add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds more. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vermouth and chicken broth, taking care not to let the liquid spatter. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil; boil, stirring with a wire whisk to loosen any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until reduced to about ⅓ cup, about 1 minute. Stir in the herbes de Provence, lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  3. Pour this braising liquid over the chicken in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high-heat setting about 2 hours (I estimate that the low-heat setting would be about 5 to 6 hours, but I have not actually tested this timing—so far, I have only tested the high-heat setting). Uncover; add the olives, and sprinkle the prosciutto on top of the chicken. Re-cover, and let simmer until the olives and prosciutto are warm and the chicken registers 180°F on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes more.
  4. Divide the chicken, olives, and prosciutto bits among four shallow bowls, pour a spoonful of sauce over each, and serve.
  5. P.S.: Yes, I threw a little snipped fresh parsley on it for color. Also, I love serving this with Any-Night Baked Rice.

PS: Here’s my absolute all-time favorite slow cooker:


Truth be told, I wasn’t that great of a fan of the slow cooker until I started cooking with the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Four-Quart Slow Cooker. I love the way you can brown and sauté ingredients directly in the cooker before switching it over to the slow-cooking mode. But what I love even more is that once the food has cooked for the set time, the cooker will switch to “keep warm” mode. That’s a boon to anyone who’s endured a mushy and overcooked slow-cooked meal. Check out this link, and click on the 4-quart option (which is what I use!).

 

 

 

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5 comments to How to Cook French Recipes in a Slow Cooker

  • Richard Ewen

    Thank you for these tips. I have been converting recipes for some time and a few time I have overcooked things because I followed the original recipe. These tips make it easier to convert.

  • Wini

    Glad I could help! I think the slow cooker works especially well for stews and braises that call on meats—they’re more forgiving if you cook them a little longer than they actually need. Chicken is much harder to time. It can become so stringy when overcooked!

  • Cecilia

    I’m with you. I never really liked the old stone-ware “crock pot” kind of slow-cookers. The cookers that you can brown in are really the best.

    Please post more Slow-Cooker recipes!

  • Donna Burleaud

    I am thrilled to find this recipe! When was little my dad, born in France in the 1890’s, had an old small canvas bag with black dried, wrinkly olives. I recall he said the bag had belonged to his mother. He only brought out the bag once in a while. I’d watch him throw a handful into a chicken dish he was cooking on the stove. Personally, I never liked the dish at the time since some of the olives left a bitter taste under my tongue. (My grandmother probably cured them herself.) But now I’m writing about recipes I remember as a child and I believe this is it!!! I’ve been unable to find the recipe I remember until just now. Can’t wait to try it! Thank you for helping me bring old memories to life!

    • Wini

      That’s amazing! I don’t know how I came up with this recipe–I think it’s patterned after something I ate in Provence or Languedoc. I hope you enjoy the dish.

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