This is, admittedly, the first thing I’ve made in the slow cooker since November’s Malaysian beef curry that didn’t have me thinking, “meh.” I want to love my slow cooker, I really do, but anything cooked over four hours or so (with the exception of large cuts of beef or pork) just ends up tasting homogeneously, disappointingly bland. And if you’re only going to use a slow-cooker for four hours, that more or less defeats the purpose of using one in the first place, doesn’t it? Maybe this problem is due to my having a cheap Rival model, but buying a super-expensive slow cooker is just not something I ever plan on doing. Oh well. In any case, this is essentially glorified ramen, but the broth is phenomenal, the prep is simple, and it makes a ton.
Recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. As below, it makes about 6 servings. If you’ll be saving some for leftovers, I recommend only cooking 1 package of ramen and storing the leftover broth sans noodles; that way the noodles don’t absorb all the broth as they sit, and you can cook the other package fresh when you heat up the leftovers.
• 2 onions, chopped: 40 cents
• 6 garlic cloves, minced: 6 cents
• 2 T minced ginger: 10 cents
• 1 T tomato paste: 10 cents
• 1 T oil: 3 cents
• 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes: 1 cent
• 8 cups chicken broth or stock (I used Better Than Bouillon): 56 cents
• 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced: 6 cents
• 3 T soy sauce: 10 cents
• 2 T sugar: 4 cents
• 2 star anise pods: 2 cents
• 2 bay leaves: 2 cents
• 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (I used one very large breast): $2
• 2 packages ramen (save the seasoning packets for sprinkling on popcorn; “Oriental flavor” is best for this): 32 cents
• 1/2 head cabbage, finely shredded: 75 cents
• 2 large green onions (garden): $0
TOTAL: $4.57/6 = 76 cents/serving
This is admittedly a strange step, but I’m not one to doubt ATK and it did work: Microwave chopped onions, garlic, 1 T of the ginger, the tomato paste, the oil, and the red pepper flakes in a bowl for 5 minutes until cooked, stirring occasionally. If you don’t have a microwave, you could just cook the onions, garlic, pepper flakes, and ginger in oil in a skillet on the stove, adding the tomato paste near the end.
Transfer contents of the bowl to the slow cooker. Add the broth, carrots, soy sauce, sugar, star anise, and bay leaves. Nestle the whole chicken breast(s) or thighs in the liquid. Cover and cook for 4 hours on low (or 6 hours if you have one of those slow cookers that actually cook slow).
Remove chicken, transfer to a cutting board, and shred (chopping may be easier if you’re using thighs).
If you used thighs, you may need to skim some fat off the top of the broth. Pour the soup into a soup pot, add the shredded cabbage, and heat on the stove over high heat, until boiling.
(ATK says to just turn your slow-cooker up to high, but in my experience it never gets high enough to cook the noodles properly, so I always just transfer it to the stove.) Add the shredded cabbage and the ramen and cook until noodles are tender. Pick the bay leaves and star anise out of the broth. Add shredded or chopped chicken and remaining tablespoon of ginger.
Season to taste with additional soy sauce, and serve garnished with sliced green onions.