Crock Pot Cooking
Laura’s Blog Entry
As promised, here is an entry on everything crock pot. My love affair with these little slow cookers began when I was a kid. My mom would put vegetable soup or Swiss steak in the crock pot in the morning and when I got home after school it always smelled divine!
When I had my first apartment I got a tiny little one that holds about one quart. I made little tiny dinners for myself. I still have it! In fact, I own three of these babies, which I would consider excessive, if I didn’t use them all regularly. Now I use the baby one mostly for entertaining. It’s great for hot dips – like artichoke – yum! Or for making a small batch of shredded BBQ chicken for sandwiches.
I got the medium-sized one early in our marriage as a Christmas gift from Neil’s parents. The tiny one wasn’t big enough for soups and stews.
The one I use most is the huge one Mari and Neil got me for Christmas two years ago. The best feature is that it has a “keep warm” setting. This is great once soup is done and I just want to let it sit while the flavors blend. Plus I can make a massive batch of Cincinnati Chili in it. Or roast a whole chicken. Oh yes.
And on that note, here are a few of my latest masterpieces:
Ina Garten’s Roasted Chicken. Only changes I made were to brown the stuffed chicken in the oven first. Then slow cook 6-8 hours on low. Oh and I skip the fennel. It was very cost effective for us – one chicken gave us three meals. The first was the traditional roasted chicken served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable. Later I shredded the meat and made a BBQ Chicken Pizza. Tonight I am warming up the last of it with some BBQ sauce and serving on buns. None of us generally like dark meat, but this is so tender that when you shred it and mix it the light and dark together, even the dark meat is delicious.
Asian Shredded Beef. This recipe originally came from Cooking Light. It is amazingly good and now I make a large batch and freeze it for future meals. I serve it on whatever buns we have on hand, hamburger, hotdog, hogie. All good. Note: I despise Chinese five spice powder, so I leave that out.
BBQ Ribs. I was always afraid to try these, but with my recent successes I gave it a try. Soooo good. And easy! The recipe is from the little cookbook that came with the crock pot. I will type it up and post it in a separate entry.
Beef Brisket / Pot Roast / Pork Roast. All of these work great. I now make sure that I also plan to make either soup, or beef and noodles with the leftovers to make sure we use up every last morsel. Frugal, frugal, frugal.
And now I am going to share with you what I think is the most important secret to get good crock pot results. It adds a step, but is so worth it. Brown or sear your meat before placing in the slow cooker. Not only does it make the food much more visually appealing when it is done (sometime crock pot meals are a bit pale and sad looking) it adds an important depth to the flavor. The ribs recipe calls for them to be browned under the broiler before slow cooking. If the weather is nice next time I make them, I may pop them on the grill for this step.
A website I have found to be a great resource is A Year of Slow Cooking, which I linked to above for the shredded beef recipe. It is a great resource. I find I use it mostly when I want to take a regular recipe and adapt it to work in the crock pot. I can search her recipes and get an idea on cooking time as well pick up other tips on cooking that item.
So anybody have any crock pot favorites? Share in the comments if you do!