Use your slow cooker to get a little taste of summer

- MARISA RENWALD Comfort Food marisarenw­

The flavors of summer seem so far away, so unattainab­le. Somewhere in your back yard under inches of packed snow, your grill sighs of warmer days.

The craving for barbecued food, in-season vegetables and light, crisp flavors is there; but something doesn’t seem right about staving off winter comfort foods for summery substitute­s when the mercury barely hovers above single digit temperatur­es.

You can, however, compromise. Trade off rich winter flavors for summery ones, but keep the necessary cold weather dividends, such as swapping your grill for a slow cooker. Tit for tat.

In this case, a summer specialty does, in fact, pop up in the slow cooker. Barbecued chicken sandwiches, hot from the grill, get new life when stewing in a slow cooker in a homemade mop sauce made with brown sugar and dark ale.

A favorite summertime recipe is a tender barbecued chicken sandwich, weighed down by a hefty spoonful of coleslaw and smashed between a soft bun. The sandwich is evocative of any summer patio party and the flavors beckon for reincarnat­ion.

In the slow cooker, though, everything gets resurrecte­d. The bold flavors of a mop — cider vinegar, Worcesters­hire sauce, chili powder, molasses, paprika and brown sugar — all meld together along with a deep-flavored beer to tenderize chicken in a lengthy bath.

The result is even more flavorful and more tender than the grilled version.

And since this dish is prepared in the slow cooker, it also cuts down on prep time. When the yearning for summer hits you, why shovel off the grill in the middle of a brisk winter when a slow cooker is so much easier (and cleaner)?

Cooking this chicken for 4 hours gives you the perfect consistenc­y for shredding and the ideal base for a dollop of creamy coleslaw. Don’t skimp on this last part — it’s what makes this barbecued chicken flavor reminiscen­t of warmer weather.

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