Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I want to marry the inventor of the slow cooker

A few years ago, my roommate bought a slow cooker and I asked if I could try it. I tried a chicken stew but it pretty blah. Too much liquid. Over-cooked. Blah. Next I tried some ribs for a New Years dinner. The ribs were also pretty blah. Too much fat. Too much liquid. I never tried the slow cooker again.

My mother, on the other hand, had been singing praises about her slow cooker. She had three in different sizes. I thought she was nuts. Last summer when my sister came to visit, she bought me one despite my protests. I don't need it, I cried. I won't use it. She ignored me. It sat in the box for several weeks and I had pretty much forgotten about it. One day I pulled it out and thought I should at least use it once. On the cover was the picture of a whole chicken in the pot. I had a whole chicken. I wondered if it would fit.

I seasoned up my chicken well and then placed it in the ceramic pot. It definitely fit. I couldn't decide on how much liquid to add. I saw that some recipes suggested no liquid. I also remembered that too much liquid was a problem when I first used it. I decided to go with no liquid and hope that it and all worked out. And you know what? It did. That chicken was A M A Z I N G. After just one dish I was hooked.

Since then I have found sites dedicated to slow cooking. While I haven't tried any of the recipes, I do browse from time to time. The slow cooker is so versatile. I can toss the food in and go to sleep. I can leave the house. I don't have to keep running to the kitchen. Can I marry the inventor of the slow cooker? Please?

Here are some of my favourite dishes to cook in my slow cooker.

Whole chicken - no need to heat up the whole house during the summer. Be careful not to cook it too long or it will be falling apart and difficult to remove from the slow cooker in one piece. Each slow cooker is different. I find that mine cooks a lot faster than others.

Chicken parts - toss them in with your favourite seasonings. Guess what? You don't even have to marinate your meat. I know! Crazy. Toss it in and walk away. I often cook a bunch of parts and then shred the meat for sandwiches and salads for later.

Beans - I love doing beans. Sometimes I'll do a combination of several types of beans. I can then turn that into a bean stew, bean soup or even just a bean filling for a wrap. One thing I have noted is that when using my slow cooker, I don't use as much salt. In fact, I tend to leave salt out when cooking the beans and I don't notice a difference. I have since done the same with meat. Just make sure you use a lot of onions, garlic and herbs.

Pork leg - oh yeah. This is probably my favourite. Season up that pork shoulder really well. Let it marinate for a little while. It's a large cut of meat after all. Put it in the slow cooker and walk away. When you return, you will have DELICIOUS pork that's perfect for pulled pork sandwiches or whatever else your heart desires. I'm drooling just thinking about the last pork shoulder that I did.

Baked beans - oh yeah! You can definitely do baked beans in the slow cooker. Use some small white beans - like northern beans. Combine tomato paste (or ketchup), barbecue sauce (or just the ingredients for bbq sauce), a little vinegar, lots of brown sugar, maybe some dried mustard, oregano. Taste it. Does it taste really good? Like extra yummy bbq sauce? Great. Now add it to the slow cooker. Add your soaked beans. You want to cover the beans with the sauce plus maybe another 2cm or so of liquid. Not as much liquid evaporates during slow cooking and you don't want your baked beans to be swimming in liquid at the end. However, if they are, put it on the stove to dry it out or stir in some cornstarch to thicken things up. It should be fine though. That brown sugar is going to caramelize and make something lovely. These baked beans were so good that I wanted to just take the ceramic pot and grab a spoon and not move until they were finished.

Chicken + beans + potatoes + carrots - I got the inspiration for this from What's for Dinner's Cowboy Stew. She uses beef. I was out of beef. I soaked my beans and made the same sauce as I would for baked beans, rubbed the chicken pieces in some of it too and put the pieces on top of the beans. I also put some onions and garlic at the bottom. Next I was going to add the potato and carrots but I was craving raw carrots and decided to just do a slaw instead. I then decided to just do a baked potato too. End result? Finger licking good! Another dish that I want to eat straight from the slow cooker. One other thing I should mention, for this dish, I actually added frozen chicken to the crock pot. Yup. Yup. You can toss frozen chicken into your slow cooker.

You want to marry the inventor too, don't you?

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