Here in Colorado, we often say that “the weather is made up and the seasons don’t matter.” In practice, that means we can easily go from tank tops and flip flops one day to snow boots and mittens the next. I’d be lying if I said I was used to it by now. But each spring, I can at least resign myself to it, once I settle in to whatever kind of weather the universe has decided to grace us with. However, upon reflection, I realize I’ve been pondering the safe time to plant my tomatoes for over a decade now—without ever getting a conclusive answer.
Such has been this past week, with the food on my plate reflecting the erratic weather that is spring in the Rocky Mountain foothills. I’m sure by the time this post goes live, we’ll be faced with scorching heat again. But today, it’s cold. And very, very wet.
And definitely not the safe time to plant my tomatoes yet!
This hearty one-pot meal is perfect for the changeable weather we’ve been having. More importantly, it satisfied my craving for something cozy and comforting after a long day. And with the use of the slow cooker, I can set it and forget it.
Few things are more welcome on a drizzly, chilly evening than arriving home to a hot, fragrant, uncomplicated dinner. Warm food warms our bodies. Add a kick of spice and you’ve got a double dose of heat that really takes the chill off your bones. The heat from capsaicin, the active component in spicy foods, promotes circulation by stimulating our body temperature and increasing our blood flow. It actually creates warmth from the inside out. The combination of cayenne pepper and spicy sausage gives this dish a double shot of capsaicin. It’s enough to gratify without being overpowering.
Serve alone in a bowl like a stew. Or make it a more substantial, southern-style meal by serving over hot rice, with a side of cornbread and greens sautéed in bacon grease. Like any stewed dish, this one only gets better with time, so feel free to prepare a day in advance, and make enough for leftovers!
Creole Chicken and Sausage
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 2–4 hours (depending on cooking method)
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 onion, diced large
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 rib celery, diced
2 bell peppers, diced large
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
¼–½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used ¼ teaspoon)
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup white wine
1½ cups canned, diced, or crushed tomatoes
1 lb. cooked andouille or other spicy sausage, sliced thickly
2 tablespoons arrowroot starch, to thicken (optional)
Shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese, to serve
- Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Brown in frying pan or on grill. Transfer to a slow cooker.
- Top chicken with onions, garlic, celery, bell pepper, spices, and herbs. Pour in broth, wine, and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir so chicken is just submerged. Cover and turn on high setting. Cook for 2½–3 hours, until chicken and vegetables are tender.
- Add sausage, return lid to pot, and cook an additional 30–45 minutes. Combine arrowroot with a little cold water to form a paste. Stir through, cooking for about 2 minutes, until thick. Serve with the cheese sprinkled on top, if desired.
Alternative stovetop method: Sauté veggies in a pot for 5 minutes. Add browned chicken, herbs, and liquid ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 1 hour. Add sausage and cook an additional ½ hour. Thicken as above, if desired.
Image by Briana Goodall.