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30 January 2011

Crockpot/Slow Cooker? Was gifted a slow cooker for Christmas. My aunt sent me a PDF of 720 slow cooker recipes, but I'm having trouble finding good ones that don't include (a) a can of soda; (b) large amounts of cheese, or (c) cans of cream-of-somethingorother soup. Any help?[More:]We made a jambalaya last week that was truly awesome, so I know it's possible to make very yummy stuff in the crockpot. Given the ridiculous degree of scheduling in our lives, it would be really awesome if we can develop a repertoire of reasonably healthy, tasty crockpot stuff made out of whole ingredients. With the jambalaya, it was pretty awesome: while cooking something simple Monday night, I just chopped up all the ingredients and threw them in the pot and stored it in the fridge overnight. Turned it on while heading out to work, and came home to a delicious, finished dinner. Pretty cool! Looking for more that work pretty easily like that.
I use cheap cuts of beef or lamb to make great stews. I brown the meat first in a skillet, along with garlic, paprika, curry powder (whatever spices you want) and then add it to the slow cooker with vegetables, onions, herbs and stock. When the meat's cooked, the stew can be thickened - I use Bisto gravy granules, but I doubt you can buy them in the US. Instead, thicken the stew with a little powdered mashed potato.

Don't use chicken on the bone in a slow cooker. The bones disintegrate into a chalky mush which is really unappealing.

I also gave this answer on the green a while ago.
posted by Senyar 30 January | 11:48
Ooh, good tip about the bones. I would have thought they would be nicer, like on the stovetop.

I use Bisto gravy granules

We do have something like that - this marvelous stuff.

posted by Miko 30 January | 12:00
(a) a can of soda; (b) large amounts of cheese, or (c) cans of cream-of-somethingorother soup

(a) Yuck. 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar or other acid will work fine. Basically it tenderizes the meat.

(b) Cheese in a slow cooker??? I would add that later if at all.

(c) I only use canned cream soups when I am cooking for an army.

I found a really good brand of premade stocks (both chicken and beef) at my grocery that I have been using to slow cook.

I don't thicken until I am ready to serve. I use either mashed potatoes (wink@Senyar), corn starch or flour depending on what I want to achieve. Gold Medal makes a quick-mixing flour called Wondra that is finely ground flour and can go directly into (well, sprinkled onto) hot liquids.

I like to chop onions fine so they melt into the stock. Root veggies will cook as large chunks over six+ hours. Tender veggies go in about 10 minutes before serving since I like them a bit undercooked.

On preview: I see you know about Wondra.
posted by Ardiril 30 January | 12:02
I made some taco filling last week in the crockpot that was divine (and also served as taco salad stuff, general yummy sandwich stuff, and other kinds of filler). I chopped up an onion, tossed in a big can of black beans, another can of kidney beans, some corn, and some tomatoes with chilies. Top it off with two chicken breasts, throw in some spices and you're good to go. I cooked it on low for about six hours, and shredded the chicken just before serving it on tacos with sour cream and shredded lettuce. This could easily be made with fewer canned things, but it's fairly healthy if you grab the low sodium kinds.

posted by lriG.rorriM 30 January | 12:02
One thing I have always wanted to try and never got around to it is slow-cooked scalloped potatoes.
posted by Ardiril 30 January | 12:04
I love this book by Judith Finlayson, but she has many other books on the topic. I'm tempted to get this one, too.

Some of my favourite recipes from the first book include Moors and Christians (a Cuban black bean and rice dish), chicken fried steak (not really fried, but good!), and pork and onions in a mustard sauce (I use lean pork leg instead of pork chops).

I follow her guidelines of doing a little prep (sauteing onions, browning meat) because it really does help bring out the flavours and doesn't take that much extra time. She uses canned condensed broth a lot because it gives a more intense flavour for the volume of liquid, but I just boil down any stock or broth I have and keep a supply in the freezer, or use wine or beer.

My only well-loved can-of-soup recipe is one my Mum used to make: layers of cooked ground beef, very thinly sliced potatoes, onions and carrots, and some thawed frozen green peas, all covered with a can of Campbell's tomato soup with some herbs mixed in, and left to cook on low until it was done.
posted by maudlin 30 January | 12:08
For regular slow cooker recipes, I tend to default to Cooking Light and Eating Well, which both have wonderful and workable recipes.

If you have $12 to spare and like Indian food, though, I am nuts about this cookbook. I'm actually busy cooking my way through it right now. Yum.
posted by bearwife 30 January | 12:42
(a) Yuck. 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar or other acid will work fine. Basically it tenderizes the meat.

I wish these recipes actually had such a sincere culinary purpose for the can of soda. Most of them are instead straight up "7-Up Chicken!" or "Orange Soda Chicken!" or "Coca Cola Pork!" It's actually there as the sauce base.

As for the cheese - a number of the recipes in my aunt's book are for variations on the theme "Cheesy _______ Bake!" in which the blank can be filled by any number of vegetables, pastas, grains, or meats. They generally call for a couple of cups of shredded cheddar or American cheese to form a cheesy sauce around some other stuff. There are crockpot lasagnas and crockpot baked zitis and the like that use lots of cheese, too. Some of them do involve adding a layer of cheese as a topping at the end of cooking.

I always have homemade stock on hand so would just use that whenever bullion, stock, or the like is called for.
posted by Miko 30 January | 12:44
Oh, searching Cooking Light is an awesome idea, bearwife. I am a passionate Cooking Light devotee.
posted by Miko 30 January | 12:46
Me too, Miko. (This also means you will love
posted by bearwife 30 January | 13:00
I do love Eating Well. If anything, I have even more respect for the editorial policies at Eating Well. They are much less interested in being an ad vehicle for "reduced-fat" and "light" products.
posted by Miko 30 January | 13:10
Pot roast is the best possible thing you can do in a crockpot. Get a smallish, decent cut of roast, put it in with a LOT of liquid, veggies and potatoes, and light seasoning of your preference, and let it cook on Low overnight, then replace the liquid and let it cook on Low all day long.
posted by Doohickie 30 January | 13:13
I'm making meatballs and sausage in tomato sauce in my crockpot right now. In Philly they call it the "Sunday Gravy". It simmers all day in wine and tomato sauce. And we use the crockpot a few times a month for chili - we use ground turkey and turkey sausage and fresh tomatoes and white good.
posted by iconomy 30 January | 13:30
"7-Up Chicken!" or "Orange Soda Chicken!"

All that sugar! ]cringe[
Although if you drink the soda, you get the sugar anyway, but still...

This thread has given me lots of ideas. I'm glad you started it, Miko.
posted by Ardiril 30 January | 13:38
Pot roast is the best possible thing you can do in a crockpot.

Yes! I did one last week. Potatoes & carrots, etc, on bottom. Roast over that. Pour wine, soy sauce, chopped garlic over roast. Put some water in for veggies (maybe a cup or two). I did mine on high for 4 hours and low for another 2-3 and it was DELICIOUS.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 30 January | 14:02
Ooo. That's now on my menu for next week, TPS. Sounds amazing.
posted by iconomy 30 January | 14:15
This isn't the place for it, but I'm putting it here because there ISN'T a place for it currently.

Last week I roasted a chicken -- first time ever. I brined it for about two hours, rubbed it in butter and herbs, and then set it on a bunch of chopped carrots and onions in a roasting pan. When it was done, it was a good roasted chicken. But OMG, the veggies underneath were freaking amazing. Best roasted veggies I've ever had. Next time, I'm adding potatoes.

Okay, carry on.

My uncle makes pulled pork in his slow cooker. Unfortunately, I do not have the recipe. Just wanted to throw it in there as a tasty option.

And that concludes my absolutely no-help comment. Carry on for real now.
posted by mudpuppie 30 January | 14:23
Oh, and I should say, I rubbed kosher salt all over the roast, too. OMG it was so delicious. I ate it for lunch all that week.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 30 January | 14:27
'm making meatballs and sausage in tomato sauce in my crockpot right now. In Philly they call it the "Sunday Gravy". It simmers all day in wine and tomato sauce.

May we have the recipe, pleeeez?

Pup, the veggies soaked in chicken juices are my favorite thing about roasted chicken. They are amazing indeed.

You can actually roast chicken in the crock pot, according to the directions. Seems odd, but maybe it would be good. Certainly doesn't lose a lot of moisture in there.
posted by Miko 30 January | 15:51
I make chili and something vaguely like French onion soup pretty frequently. Pot roast is an occasional treat.

Chili is soaked dried kidney beans, a pound of ground meat, a diced onion, can of stewed tomatoes, and spices, left to cook all day. Spices: about 1/4 cup chili powder, a tablespoon of paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne, 1/2 tsp black pepper. Sniff everything else in the spice cabinet and toss in a teaspoon or so if it smells good. Cumin, oregano, garlic of one kind or another, that sort of thing. Generally serve it with cheese and sour cream on top, and a roll or two.

For the "vaguely French" onion soup, I fill the crock pot halfway with onions cut into about 1/2" coins, then quartered. Add some celery seed, paprika, a can of condensed tomato soup, and then about 8 cups of beef bouillon. It needs about 6 hours but gets better the longer it cooks. When it's done, I toast French or Italian bread with mozzarella or provolone cheese on top, then put it on top of the bowl of soup. This is so crazy delicious.

Mmmm pot roast. It's going to have to be a pot roast day pretty soon.
posted by galadriel 30 January | 16:13
Defending the use of Cola in the slow-cooker, if you're making pulled pork, you HAVE to use a can of Cola (sugared, not diet), because it makes the tenderest, most scrummy pulled pork ever. After 6 hours or so in the slow cooker, you wiggle the shoulder bone out of the pork, shred it up, add a jar of BBQ sauce, and give it another couple of hours. It is to die for!
posted by Senyar 30 January | 16:19
Bread Pudding!
posted by WolfDaddy 30 January | 16:21
- Sunday Gravy -

Italian sausage
4c bread crumbs plain (never seasoned! whatsamattu? has to be 4c!)
lb ground beef - room temp
2 eggs - room temp
2 32 ounce (or whatever) cans tomato sauce (I use Contadina)
olive oil
a cup of wine: chianti, dego red, leftover red or rose...whatever

Brown the sausage with a little olive oil and cut into little chunks. Pat dry.
Make small meatballs: with the beef and eggs at room temp, mix together with hands and then add about a cup of bread crumbs and mix together again. Manipulate the meat as little as possible so it doesn't get tough. Put the sausage and the sauce and the meatballs (not browned) into a crock pot and add a cup of wine. Simmer it all day. Voila, Sunday Gravy!

Use a really good grated parm or romano cheese over it when you put the gravy over pasta. The meatballs make the most amazing meatball sandwiches with some good grated cheese and a crusty roll...the meat is very soft and juicy if you don't overmanipulate it by too much handling...makes a huge difference in the texture! I use Hunt's Traditional Four Cheese sauce in a can when I'm in a hurry instead of Contadina - the Hunt's is a finished sauce, ready to use. Don't use any Italian spices or seasonings, they're not needed, and I think it might be sacrilegious ;)

I ALWAYS add a pinch of cinnamon to my gravy. It gives it an extra sort of savory that just takes it over the top. You'll have to drain some fat off of the top of the sauce when you're done making it; it's a result of the meat cooking in the sauce. Also, feel free to use the hot Italian sausage in addition to the sweet, it doesn't really translate its hotness to the sauce. Make sure you smack the meatballs really well to firm them up as you shape them so they don't fall apart in the sauce - they're really soft at first because they're not browned.
posted by iconomy 30 January | 16:34
I should add, you want the meatballs to be as breadcrumbless as possible, so if you don't have to add the whole cup to get the meat to stay together, don't. If you have to add more, add it. You want the meat to stay together, but not be heavy with bread. It's an art, and you'll only learn to make the perfect meatball by trial and error. The variables are the size of the eggs and the fat content in the meat, so there's no way of knowing exactly how much of the breadcrumbs you need. Yes, this is important stuff ;)
posted by iconomy 30 January | 16:39
We use the hell out of our slow cooker. We've done mulligatawny, tortellini soup spicy chicken chili - we call it our taco soup - it's immensely good for you and killer tasty. We even did lasagna and a cake in the thing, and both are surprisingly awesome. So look around, there are tons of wonderful recipes using real food in interesting ways. Also - we tend to use beer rather than soda for meats. I find the soda pretty cloying.
posted by tortillathehun 30 January | 17:12
The memory of my Texas grandma will not let me put soda in barbecue. BBQ sauce has plenty of sugar anyway, but I just can't do it via soda. If vinegar, tomatoes, garlic, Worcestershire, and brown sugar can't do it I don't want it to be done. ;)

A splash of dark beer in chili is really nice.

Great thoughts everyone, thanks.
posted by Miko 30 January | 17:40
Miko, lemme know if you want any of the recipes from my Indian slow cooker book. Made very hot black dal last weekend and ate it all week -- oh boy, very nice. I seem to be very inclined toward vegetarian eating so far this year.

I also have a nice recipe for slow cooked turkey leg around here somewhere.

And finally, good point about cooking light's marketing of products. You are right.
posted by bearwife 30 January | 18:12
I make pulled pork in mine. It goes a looooong way though so unless you're having a crowd - or have recently acquired a teenage boy, in which case it will disappear rapidly - plan on eating a lot of barbecue sandwiches. Which are good. Also it freezes well, which is good.
You will need:
a Boston butt
a can of frozen orange juice concentrate
a bottle of beer
some dry rub seasoning, something like this or if you are lazy like me, just chili powder, salt, a couple different kinds of pepper, a little sugar, some paprika, whatever.
Throw all these things in the slow cooker - take them out of the cans and bottles first ;-) - and leave alone on low as long as you can, like 12 hours.
Pull the pork out of the liquid, it will be falling apart.
Shred it with forks. Stir in cider vinegar, honey, mustard, barbecue sauce, salt, pepper, brown sugar, some of the cooking liquid, maybe some pickapeppa, whatever you got - until it tastes right and is not drippy wet but not dry either. Serve it on cheap buns - they must be the cheap white buns from the plain old supermarket, none of your fancy artisanal buns here - with coleslaw. Hog heaven.
posted by mygothlaundry 30 January | 18:40
TPS, can you tell me specifically what cut of meat you use?
posted by iconomy 30 January | 19:20
Mmm, everything is sounding super good. It's kind of awesome to know I'm in good company in the slow cooker club.

I'd love any Indian recipes that are your faves, bearwife - I love Indian food. Also, it seems harder to find vegetarian slow cooker recipes. it's obviously a great way to cook meats, but I try to do lots of meatless meals, so if you have any vegetarian Indian picks so much the better. It looks like a great book and I'll put it on my wishlist!
posted by Miko 30 January | 21:17
TPS, can you tell me specifically what cut of meat you use?

I was at the grocery store, and they had this 1.5 chunk of beef called "Pot roast". It was the smallest, fattiest looking one they had. That is what I used.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 30 January | 21:19
OK, here's the first two recipes, Miko. Both are fabulous. Both include similar spices but they do not taste the same. The real key -- get your ingredients at an Indian grocery. And memail me when you want more:

Recipe 1 -- Black Lentils.
Yield: 14 cups. Cook in 5 quart cooker. For 8 cup yield, halve all recipe ingredients.

Put 3 cups whole dried black lentils with skin (cleaned and washed thoroughly) in slow cooker. In food processor, grind 1 medium peeled and quartered onion, 1 2 inch peeled and roughly chopped piece of ginger, 4 peeled garlic cloves, 4-6 Thai or serrano or cayenne chiles -- I keep these in bulk in my freezer, thaw a day before use -- with stems removed, and a cup of chopped fresh cilantro. Add to slow cooker. Now add 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp ground coriander, 1 tbsp garam masala, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp-1 tbsp red chili powder, and 12 cups of water. Cook on high 4 hours. Add 1 tsp mustard oil. Cook another 4 hours on high. Add another cup of chopped fresh cilantro and a 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream or plain yogurt. Garnish with chopped onions and chopped tomatoes and serve with basmati or brown rice, onion salad, and yogurt.

Recipe 2 -- Black Lentils and Kidney Beans.
Yield: same choice as with recipe 1.

Put 2 cups of whole black dried lentils with skin that have been cleaned/washed thoroughly, and 1 cup of dried red kidney beans which have also cleaned/washed thoroughly in cooker. In food processor, puree a peeled and quartered onion, 4 peeled cloves of garlic, and 4-6 chiles with stems removed. Add to slow cooker. Now peel a piece of ginger, 2 inches, and slice into matchsticks. Add to slow cooker. Add 1 tbsp ground cumin, 1 tbsp ground coriander, 1 tbsp garam masala, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tsp turmeric powder, and 1 tsp-1 tbsp red chile powder. Stir in 12 cups water. Cook on high for 8 hours. Stir in 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro. Serve with basmati or brown rice, onion salad, maybe some raita or yogurt.
posted by bearwife 31 January | 00:18
This book is not bad.

I looked at slow cooker recipes that come up on google searches and most of them are garbage. Too much salt, too much processed food.

I will do things like this:
Roast a chicken (the aforementioned book has a good lime/cilantro chicken recipe) and use the meat for a dinner. The carcass goes right back in the cooker with whatever vegetables we have that are wilty, a half dowzen peppercorns, a bay leaf and a few quarts of water. 10 hours later on slow, it's chicken stock. Strain, refrigerate, skim the fat. Leftover chicken meat? Time for soup.
posted by plinth 31 January | 06:22
I made Tyler Florence's Mexican Pot Roast Tacos yesterday. I highly recommend them. The recipe is wrong, by the way. One tablespoon of cayenne will bring the fire department. Use one teaspoon, max. I use less.

I follow the recipe until the "add the crushed tomatoes" step. The pot roast goes into the slow cooker with the tomatoes, water and spices. Cook it on high for an hour and then down to low for as long as you want, at least 6 hours.

I never use the included recipes for salsa and guacamole. I'm using the crock pot because I have other things to do. We use Pace, and sliced avocados for filling.
posted by toastedbeagle 31 January | 09:12
Yeah, plinth, I'm pretty excited about the slow cooker as a way to make stock! WAY more energy efficient than my current stovetop method.
posted by Miko 31 January | 09:48
Get a boneless pork shoulder picnic. Put it in the slow cooker with traditional barbecue sauce. Cook for 8 hours. Remove pork, shred with two forks, put back in cooker and mix with sauce. Makes excellant pulled pork.

McCormicks' makes great little seasoning packets - especially check out their "Italian Herb Chicken". Comes out like chicken cacciatore - serve over rice. You can find the packets with the gravy section in your supermarket.

I've never had a problem with bones in the crockpot - they've never turned mushy on me.

Also, cut babyback ribs in to two or three rib chunks, put in slow cooker with barbecue sauce or sauce of your choice. Slow cook 6 or 8 hours - yum! I adore my slow cooker.
posted by redvixen 01 February | 08:44
redvixen's pulled pork method is mine, too, though I sometimes cut the BBQ sauce with red wine and add a palmful of cumin. (And cook it in a low oven, but a slow cooker would do even better with greater energy efficiency.)

I'm reading these recipes with interest, because I'm thinking it's time to buy a slow cooker. The thing that tipped me over the edge? You can make granola in it. Oh boy!
posted by Elsa 01 February | 09:35
Here I go again, preaching the gospel: Crock Pot Chicken Cassoulet. Once you get the hang of this basic recipe, start living larger with Italian sausage, other root vegetables and more spices. This recipe also freezes well; I make a big batch and portion it out into lunch-size freezer boxes.
posted by workerant 01 February | 15:52
Making the pot roast right now - it's been in the crock pot since 10 AM. Looks good, smells gooder. Haven't tasted it yet.
posted by iconomy 07 February | 16:58
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