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    Not Your Mother’s

    SLOW COOKER

    Cookbook

    REVISED AND EXPANDED EDITION

    Beth Hensperger

    and Julie Kaufmann

    For Agra: Thank you for sharing your understanding of the cosmos that flows through you, dear friend and gentle heart.

    — BH —

    For Ben, who supports me in everything I do

    — JK —

    Contents

    Introduction

    1. Cooking in Slow Motion

    2. From the Porridge Pot

    3. The Slow Cooker Soup Pot

    4. Slow-Cooked Side Dishes, Vegetable Stews, and Stuffings

    5. Rice and Other Grains

    6. Not-from-the-Slow Cooker Accompaniments

    7. The New-Fashioned Bean Pot

    8. The Wonderful World of Chili

    9. BBQ Sandwiches

    10. Savory Sauces, Pizza, and Pasta Casseroles

    11. Poultry, Game Birds, and Rabbit

    12. Beef, Veal, and Venison

    13. Pork and Lamb

    14. Ribs and Wings

    15. Fish and Shellfish

    16. Brunch

    17. Drinks and Dips

    18. Slow Cooker Puddings, Cakes, and Breads

    19. Fruit Desserts, Sauces, and Compotes

    20. Fruit Butters, Jams, and Chutneys

    Slow Cooker Manufacturers

    Measurement Equivalents

    Acknowledgments

    Index

    Introduction

    W e started this project because we love to cook, and we both are advocates of quick cooking—making our favorite recipes as easy and effortless as possible. Since food writing and editing are our professions, we are both in the kitchen a great deal, but the dilemma we face of coming up with tasty, healthful meals in a short amount of time every day is the same one that challenges any working person or busy parent. We love ethnic and traditional American cooking, but we take a very flexible approach. We like to play with our favorite seasonings and flavor combinations. We like to experiment, substitute ingredients as needed, and enjoy our time in the kitchen, rather than have it be a chore. We don’t want to save our favorites for guests; we want to eat them when we choose. The slow cooker, to our surprise, fit into our culinary lives with perfection.

    As its name implies, cooking in the slow cooker takes longer than conventional stovetop or oven cooking. But we found it was quick in other ways: The no-fuss assembly was efficient, we could still be imaginative in our choice of ingredients, and the slow-cooking process took virtually no hands once the cooker was loaded and turned on. This method was a return to truly traditional cooking and was extremely useful in our busy lives. These days more cooks are experimenting with the types of foods they can make in the slow cooker and how they are prepared. We are excited to see a wide variety of ethnic and personally designed recipes based on our original recipes here, using wholesome, fresh ingredients.

    We collected recipes—the nostalgic and the new, the exotic and homey—over two years of testing with the one requirement being that they taste good. We found that the slow cooker style of cooking is designed to complement the way we live—it is time conscious, economical, energy conscious, and reliable. We cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients, and we could cook the same dishes as easily for a dinner party as for a family supper. It was simple to make enough so we had leftovers and extras for the freezer.

    We ended up appreciating our slow cooker meals and the appliance’s ability to enhance our daily lives. We found that wonderful food does not need to be complicated. The goal of this cookbook is not only to give you lots of ideas for recipes and ways to use your slow cooker, but to enhance your time in the kitchen with home-cooked dishes you may have forgotten or have never known. Since most of the recipes constitute one-dish meals, all you need is some bread or a salad and dinner is on the table.

    Slow cooking invites the blending of lots of ingredients: meats, sausages, vegetables, greens, beans and legumes, grains and noodles, wine or beer, broth and water. Flavor enhancers, such as salt, spices, and herbs, are adjusted at the end of the cooking to prevent an overconcentration because of the long cooking time. We usually add half of the seasonings, taste at the end of cooking, and adjust by adding more then, if necessary. More delicate ingredients, such as seafood, dairy products, and some vegetables, are also added at the end of the cooking period to retain their texture. Happy slow cooking!

    1

    COOKING IN SLOW MOTION

    A mericans are known throughout the modern world for their love of new technology in the mechanical and electronic realms. Any piece of equipment or tool that can do the job better and faster is immediately embraced and touted. So who could have predicted the success of a kitchen appliance that does the job more slowly? In 1971, the Rival Company, known for manufacturing home kitchen electric appliances and for its invention of the electric can opener (in 1955), introduced a revolutionary countertop appliance (originally designed to be an electric bean cooker called the Beanery), which it dubbed the Crock-Pot. And what a smash hit it was.

    Originally marketed as a boon to the busy working woman who still wanted to serve her family homemade food, the appeal of the slow cooker has broadened considerably, reaching across gender and generational lines. The pot itself has become something of a phenomenon, with sales to date of more than 80 million units in 350 different models. To some, the slow cooker became unfashionable over time, and its avocado green and harvest gold colors seemed to be hopelessly out of tune with current style. But the slow cooker’s devotees just went right along cooking in slow motion, assembling savory one-pot meals in their trusty cookers and sitting down to eat the delicious results hours later.

    The slow cooker, a fat tub on short legs, is actually the modern embodiment of a centuries-old method of preparing food: enclosed cooking in earthenware. Today’s slow cookers are made by a bevy of manufacturers that market worldwide from the Far East to Mexico and Europe, but the cookers share certain characteristics. They have a thick stoneware insert housed in a metal casing. Electrical heating elements within the metal casing carry the heat up and all around the stoneware as it sits in the casing.

    Incorporating elements of stove-top and oven cooking methods, a slow cooker works by keeping the food constantly simmering at the lowest possible temperature for a very long period of time. Once you have mastered the skill of cooking in it, you can assemble and cook a dish that does not require any tending. In fact, you can leave the house or go to bed without worry. Today’s heavy, fully glazed stoneware cooking vessels are so versatile and attractive that you can, in most instances, assemble and refrigerate the ingredients in the insert (if you have a removable one) at night, and in the morning, place it directly in the metal housing containing the heating elements. Turn on the cooker, let it cook for hours, then serve the meal directly from it. Think of it as a large oven-to-table casserole or soup tureen. It permits you to cook back-to-basics cuisine at its best—simple and economical, yet sumptuous and hearty.

    The slow cooking of food is not just a technique, a piece of equipment, or place in the kitchen, but a frame of mind as well. On one hand, it is simplicity itself and allows for the most basic of foods to be cooked to perfection. But for good results, you must start with the best available ingredients (and “best” does not mean “most expensive”) and take care in their preparation. Time-honored techniques like measuring with care, cutting ingredients to a uniform size, soaking beans, browning meats and vegetables to bring out their full flavor, and deglazing sauté pans are the touches that all pay big dividends in flavor.

    Slow cooking is a method of cooking that invites the blending of lots of ingredients: meats (including sausage), vegetables, greens, beans and legumes, grains and noodles, wine or beer, broth and water. Flavor enhancers—salt, spices, herbs, and the like—are adjusted at the end of the cooking to prevent an overconcentration from occurring because of the long cooking time. More delicate ingredients—seafood, dairy products, and some vegetables—are also added at the end of the cooking period to keep their integrity.

    What You Will Find in This Book

    When we began this recipe collection, we were programmed to think of the slow cooker as the “magic pot” that cooked while the cook was away. Well, sometimes the cook is at home. Some foods cannot cook all day and still be recognizable. Our goal was to produce good-tasting food that was prepared by a loving hand and would be enjoyed by a discerning palate. We wanted to take advantage of the global culinary melting pot with all its appetizing and contrasting flavors and also savor old-fashioned and traditional favorites. We wanted to be able to enjoy beef bourguignon or short ribs with honey barbecue sauce one day, and Mexican posole or Japanese beef curry the next. Some days we would have the time for multiple preparation steps that would further enhance the final flavor; other days there would be only enough time to throw everything into the cooker before dashing out the door.

    While writing this book, we looked around the world for inspiration, seeking foods that traditionally have been cooked in closed ceramic pots or casseroles, such as the Spanish olla ; the French daubière , toup , and cassole ; the Italian fagioliera ; the Moroccan tagine; the Japanese donabe casserole; and the Chinese sandpot. We found a wealth of wonderful, soul-satisfying recipes and adapted them to the slow cooker. The low temperature and long cooking time of such dishes allows for the toughest, often most inexpensive “country” cuts of meat (unsuitable for fast, high-heat sautés and grilling) to be cooked to a luscious tenderness without loss of their natural juices. Bean dishes, long-simmered tomato sauces, and other flavorful vegetable dishes are also slow cooker naturals. The slow cooker is one of the best ways to cook beans, lentils, and split peas to perfection.

    What Is Slow Cooking?

    All foods are cooked by one of two methods: moist or dry. Dry-heat cooking methods include roasting, baking, broiling, grilling, toasting, panfrying, and deep-frying. This category makes use of appliances such as the microwave, toaster, outdoor grill, and conventional oven.

    Moist-heat cooking includes stewing, braising, steaming, and poaching. The slow cooker, with its even, low heat sealed in a covered pot, uses this technique. During moist-heat cooking, meat and other foods are cooked in a closed environment of constantly moving liquid or steam. This method is used for foods that are not naturally tender, such as beans and other plants with lots of fiber and meat with a lot of connective tissue. The hot, moist environment breaks down fiber, making the beans and fibrous vegetables soft and tender, and it dissolves meat’s connective tissue, called collagen, into gelatin, thereby tenderizing tough meat.

    The temperature that will give you the most tender meat is around 180°F, equivalent to the LOW setting on the slow cooker. It is the lowest temperature deemed safe for cooking by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The very slow simmer engulfs the food, creates steam, and retains the food’s natural texture and flavor. The slow cooker is the master of this style of cooking, efficiently transferring the heat from its source in the base surrounding the heat-sensitive crockery insert to the liquid, and finally, to the food.

    About the Stoneware Insert in Your Slow Cooker

    The stoneware insert used in the slow cooker is fully glazed, inside and out. It is fired at more than 2,000°F, a process that vitrifies the clay, hardening it so it becomes resistant to chipping and discoloring, and giving it its shiny, glassy, easy-to-clean finish. You can cook acidic ingredients like rhubarb and tomatoes in it with no worry of off flavors developing. Today’s slow cooker utilizes two basic shapes, both of which encourage condensation but, with their tight-fitting lids, prevent evaporation. For this reason, the slow cooker version of a recipe will call for less liquid than the oven or stove-top original, where evaporation will occur. Cooking the slow cooker way adds an extra 1 /2 to 1 cup of liquid during the cooking process as the ingredients exude juices, which condense under the lid and do not evaporate.

    In older models, the stoneware is not removable and, hence, a hassle to clean. All the models we inspected during the writing of this book were removable for easy cleaning and were even dishwasher safe. The first cookers were only available in 3 1 /2 – or 4-quart round shapes and did not have lips suitable to be used as handles. All the stoneware inserts now have handles so you can easily lift and lower the pot. An empty medium-size round crock weighs about 6 pounds.

    There are also slow cookers with nonstick metal cooking vessels. These models, designed for multitasking such as popping corn and deep-frying, do not work as well as the stoneware inserts.

    Stoneware cannot, under any circumstance, be placed over direct heat on the stovetop for browning or finishing off, or set in the freezer; it will crack when exposed to extremes in temperature. It can, however, be used in the oven with great success as a casserole dish or for baking bread.

    Slow Cooker Shapes and Sizes

    The first, and most familiar, shape is the round slow cooker. This is the best shape for cooking soups, beans, stews, and risottos. It reminds us of a classic flowerpot, with a rather small base and tall, slightly sloping sides, and a large, open “mouth” with a domed, see-through, tempered glass lid, which seals the slow cooker into an airtight container when the contents are heated. The first slow cookers had flimsy Lexan plastic lids. The current glass lids are a fabulous improvement, allowing the heat to reflect down and envelop the contents in moist heat from all sides. As for color, the poisonous colors of decades past—psychedelic orange, green, and yellow, or overly decorated cutesy styles—have been replaced with pale soft white, a simple border, or stunning stainless steel, which looks elegant with its black stoneware insert.

    In the last few years, the oval roaster shape has appeared. Based on the classic French terrine with lower, wider sides, it is a bit more shallow and compact than the round shape and is especially well suited for holding large cuts of meat, such as a pork roast, leg of lamb, or whole chicken. Available in black or a soft creamy beige, it is a handsome casserole by any definition. It has more surface area than the round model, so take that into consideration when timing; it will cook slightly faster if you are making a stew or soup in it.

    The slow cooker is available in a wide range of volume capacities, from 1 to 7 quarts, increasing in 2-cup increments. It is up to you to decide what size you need, depending on the number of people you want to serve on average and what types of foods you will be making. Hard-core slow cooker users usually own two or three sizes.

    The three basic size categories are small, medium, and large, which is how we specify the proper cooker to use in each of the recipes in the book. Most sizes come in a choice of round or oval, but be sure to check inside the box when purchasing; we have found that the picture on the outside of the box sometimes does not match the shape within.

    Rival’s smallest slow cooker is dubbed the “Little Dipper,” since it is perfect for making and serving hot dips and small amounts of fondue. We prefer the 1- or 1 1 /2 -quart size, as it gives a bit more room for hands to do the dipping. This size, however, is too small for cooking soups and stews. When we indicate “small” in a recipe, you can use a 1 1 /2 – to 2 1 /2 -quart capacity slow cooker. Many who cook for one or two people use a 2- or 2 1 /2 -quart model (if you do, you can cut the recipes designed for the medium-size cooker in half).

    SLOW COOKER SIZES AT A GLANCE

    When we refer to a small, medium, or large cooker in our recipes, these are the recommended capacities for best results:

    SMALL:

    1 1 /2 -, 2-, and 2 1 /2 -quart capacity

    MEDIUM:

    3, 3 1 /2 -, 4-, and 4 1 /2 -quart capacity

    LARGE:

    5-, 5 1 /2 -, 6-, and 7-quart capacity

    Medium is the most popular size of slow cooker and before you even make your first dish in it, you will know why: It is easy to handle, comfortable to lift and manipulate, and fits nicely on the counter or in the dishwasher. When we indicate “medium” in a recipe, we are referring to the 3- to 4 1 /2 -quart models. The 3-quart oval won us over when we tested recipes for this book. This size holds 4 to 6 servings, equivalent to a 3- to 3 1 /2 -pound roast or cut-up chicken. This is also a good size for two people who like leftovers. Meatloaf can be made in either a round or oval shape of this size, but note the shape of the finished dish will reflect that of the insert.

    Large cookers are the 5- to 7-quart models, the most popular being the 5- and 6-quart sizes. These are designed for families and for entertaining and are best for large cuts of meat, such as brisket and corned beef, pot roasts, whole poultry, and large quantities of stew. The large is the preferred size for steaming puddings and brown bread, which require a mold. If you are multiplying up a recipe designated for a medium-size cooker, increase the cooking time by 1 1 /2 to 2 hours and increase your ingredients accordingly, depending on whether you are using a 5-, 6-, or 7-quart cooker. For example, a recipe designed to feed four can be tripled or quadrupled in a larger cooker.

    How to Use the Smart-Pot Slow Cooker Machine

    What if you want to make a dish that cooks for 6 hours and you won’t be home for 8 hours? Until recently, you had no choice but to overcook the food or make something else. Now there is another option. Rival, maker of the Crock-Pot line of slow cookers, created Smart-Pots, which are slow cookers that are easily programmable, even by the legions of us who can’t figure out how to use our smart phones.

    There are two styles of Smart-Pot. One type can cook on the HIGH setting for 4 or 6 hours, or on the LOW setting for 8 or 10 hours. When the cooking time is up, the Smart-Pot will automatically shift to the KEEP WARM setting (which is recommended for no more than 4 hours), so your meal is waiting for you when you are ready to eat. With this type of Smart-Pot, if you want to cook for periods of time that differ from the automated setting (for example, less time on LOW or a longer time on HIGH), you’ll have to be there to turn the pot off or on. Please note that even though this is an automatic machine, you cannot preprogram the cooking start time with a Smart-Pot, letting food sit in the crock to begin cooking at a later time, because the food will spoil rapidly. The Smart-Pot is so named because you can program how long to cook the food.

    The second type of Smart-Pot is more flexible. You can set it to cook on HIGH or LOW for anywhere from 30 minutes up to 20 hours, in half-hour increments. Here is how to use it: Fill the crock as usual, place it into the housing, and put on the cover. Plug in the Smart-Pot. The cooker’s three lights—HIGH, LOW, and KEEP WARM—will all flash, alerting you that it is time to select a setting. One push of the round button on the left selects LOW, two pushes select HIGH, and three select KEEP WARM. (If you set the Smart-Pot to KEEP WARM, you cannot set a cooking time. It will stay on KEEP WARM until you manually turn it off.) If you have chosen LOW or HIGH, you will now set the cooking time. Press the button with the up-pointing arrow. Each push adds 30 minutes on the di

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