Last August, I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference* in Portland, OR (a short 20 block trip) and had a really wonderful time. Lots of interesting and useful sessions (some with wine!), met some new food people, reconnected with some food bloggers I mainly knew from the online world and….got a free Ninja Cooking System!
The Ninja Cooking System is sort of like a crockpot that also sears, steams and oven roasts food. You can set it for slow cooking or stove top cooking and I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical at first. But, I’ve tried it twice now and both times, it worked really well. The first experiment was for a traditional crock pot-like meal — African Peanut Stew and it performed exactly like a slow cooker would. So, good job, Ninja!
The second experiment was a bit more challenging — I tried a recipe that came in the accompanying recipe booklet for Lemon Chicken with Rosemary, which they categorize as steam-infused roasting. Now, in a traditional slow cooker, I would expect this to come out like a pale, rubbery, unappetizing mess. I have to admit I was kind of expecting that here. But, no, it actually worked! And while the skin was not as crispy-crackily as a traditional, oven-roasted bird, the real pay off was in the flavor and the moistness. Oh wow, so delicious!
Ninja Lemon Chicken with Rosemary
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
6 pound whole roasting chicken (I used a 4lb chicken)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 large onions, sliced
3 cloves garlic, sliced (I upped the garlic to 4 cloves)
4 cups chicken broth (I used 3 cups broth, 1 cup white wine)
Optional: 1 Tbsp olive oil
Zest about 1 tablespoon of peel from lemon and reserve. Cut lemon in quarters. Chop and reserve 1 sprig rosemary. Remove giblets and neck from chicken cavities and either save for another use or discard.
Place lemon quarters and remaining rosemary sprigs inside chicken cavity.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Set the Stove top setting to HIGH. Place chicken into preheated cooking pot (I let my stove top preheat for about 5 minutes, adding 1 tbsp of olive oil after about 3 minutes). Cook uncovered, searing chicken for approximately 5–7 minutes on each side as desired. Remove chicken from pot and place on roasting rack. I got a nice golden crust on mine.
Place onions and garlic into pot. Saute for about 2-3 minutes in the golden, chicken-y oil.
Add the broth and place rack with chicken in pot. Sprinkle chicken with reserved lemon zest and chopped rosemary. Set oven to 375 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken, start checking for done-ness after about 55 minutes). Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear.
While the chicken rested (covered with foil, for about 10 minutes), I poured the broth into a pan and reduced a bit on the actual stove top, strained out the onions and served the sauce on the side. It was amazingly flavorful! On the side: oven roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli.
The verdict? While I can’t say I would use this to completely replace my stove top/oven, it definitely does a lot more (and does it well) than a regular crock pot/slow cooker. If you’re in the market for a new one of those, the Ninja is definitely a more versatile option!
* So, if you are a food blogger, I highly recommend you attend this conference (IFBC). There’s tons of swag/goodies, informative sessions and they have a pretty sweet deal on registration if you have a blog (if you write 3 posts about IFBC, the cost is only $95).