I was so busy making soups this week (chili, potato and greens, stuffed pepper, Japanese ramen) that I didn’t take time to create a new recipe. Thanks to an email I got from Jan, I don’t have to. She reminded me of the pleasures of plopping ingredients into a slow cooker and dishing up a meal a few hours later.
She wrote: “I received a Crock-Pot for Christmas and have not had one for at least 15 years. It did not come with many recipes, which was disappointing. I was wondering if you could recommend a few of your favorite Crock-Pot recipes and also a good website or book.”
Yes indeedy. When I wrote for the Beacon Journal, I learned to love slow cookers after I spent a week creating recipes and testing various techniques. Then about five years ago, I really fell in love with the appliances thanks to a terrific cookbook, “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann. The women bake bread in the thing. They make risotto. They whip up dreamy, warm bread puddings.
I didn’t do too badly myself years ago when creating the recipes for my column. My favorite among the recipes I came up with is Chinese Red Cooked Duck, a rich, winey entrée that would be great on a blustery night.
By the way, Crock-Pot is the brand name of the original slow cooker. Either capitalize it or bring down the wrath of the folks at Rival. Don’t forget the hyphen, either.
I’ve taught a few slow-cooker classes and passed along these tips:
- If possible, brown meats before placing in the cooker. This adds flavor, better appearance and increases the temperature of the meat for safe cooking.
- Use the correct size slow cooker for the recipe. Most slow cookers work best when one-half to three-quarters full.
- Generally, foods should be cooked on high power for the first 15 minutes to bring the food to a safe temperature, then lowered for all-day cooking. Some slow cookers have controls that start the food on high power and then automatically switch to low.
- Cooking foods on high power for the entire cooking time is fine if you’re in a hurry. The food will cook in about half the time. Low power holds the temperature at just below the boiling point while at high power, the food gently simmers.
- Oddly, vegetables cook more slowly than meats in a slow cooker, so you might want to nuke that potato before adding it to the roast. Otherwise, your roast will be ready for dinner but the potato will still be hard.
- When adapting a recipe to slow cooking, increase the spices and decrease the liquid.
The first two recipes that follow are mine, and the last two are from “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker.” The chicken paprikas isn’t as deeply flavored as traditional versions, but cooks who are in a hurry will like it. The recipe requires no sautéing, browning or stirring. Everything but the sour cream is placed in the slow cooker in the morning. Just before dinner, the sour cream is stirred in.
More recipes may be found at the official Crock-Pot website, www.crockpot.com
- 1 whole duck, 5 to 6 lbs.
- 2 tbsp. oil
- 6 quarter-size pieces peeled ginger
- 3 whole star anise (available in Asian groceries)
- 2 green onions, cut in 2-inch lengths
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 cups dry sherry
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/4 cup crushed rock sugar (available in Asian groceries)
Wash duck and cut off the tail and loose flaps of skin with poultry shears or a sharp knife.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Brown duck well on all sides.
Transfer duck to a large round or oval crockery cooker, breast-side down. Add remaining ingredients, including enough boiling water to barely cover duck. The amount of water will vary with the shape and size of the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook about 6 hours longer, or until duck is very tender.
Remove and discard as much fat as possible. At the table, with chopsticks, pull duck meat from bones in shreds. Ladle some of the sauce over duck. Serve with rice. Save remaining sauce for flavoring stir-fries.
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted From “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 medium-size shallots, minced
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
- 3 3/4 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 lb. fresh asparagus
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 cups fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp. finely minced chives
In a small skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the shallots until softened, 3 to 4 minutes; do not brown. Add wine and cook, stirring, for a minute or so. Add rice and cook, stirring, until it turns from translucent to opaque (do not brown), about 2 minutes. Scrape mixture into a medium or large round slow cooker. Add broth and salt. Cover and cook on high until all the liquid is absorbed but rice is still moist, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. While rice cooks, trim tough ends of asparagus and cut into 1-inch lengths on the diagonal. After rice has cooked 1 1/2 hours, quickly stir in asparagus. Replace lid and continue cooking. When the risotto is done, it should be just a bit liquidy, and the rice should be al dente – tender with just a touch of firmness.
Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, the chives, and season to taste with salt. Pass remaining cheese for sprinkling. Serve immediately, spooned into bowl. Risotto will keep on the Keep Warm setting for an hour or so.
Makes 3 to 4 servings.
CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING
From “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, in pieces or chips
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups cubed good-quality day-old white bread or challah (1 medium-sized loaf), crusts removed, diced
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. granulated or raw sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 3 tbsp. Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/4 cups whipping cream
- 3 tbsp. cold butter, diced
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm milk until bubbles form at edge. Remove from heat, add 8 ounces of the chocolate and let stand until chocolate has melted. Whisk until smooth. Coat a medium-sized round cooker’s liner with butter-flavor nonstick cooking spray. Add the diced bread. With a mixer or by hand, beat together the eggs and yolks, ¾ cup of granulated sugar, vanilla and cocoa until pale and thick. Slowly stir in warm chocolate mixture and cream. Pour over the bread cubes and push down to submerge. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
Fold in remaining broken chocolate or chips. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover and cook on high until the pudding is puffed, wiggles slightly in center, and a knife inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, 21/2 to 3 hours. An instant-read thermometer in the center should read 190 degrees.
Remove lid and cook on high another 15 minutes. Turn off cooker, cover and let stand for at least 15 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature. Serve with sweetened crème fraiche or whipped cream if desired.
A big welcome to Sherman Provision in Norton for signing on as the newest sponsor of See Jane Cook. I’ve patronized the country meat market for years, and hope some of you will seek them out as well, in thanks for keeping this free newsletter going. That’s a minor reason for supporting Sherman’s, though. It is among the dying breed of full-service butcher shops where the meat is actually cut on the premises. It is owned by Mike and Mauri O’Brodo. He is the head butcher and Mauri, an enthusiastic cook, writes a blog (http://shermanprovision.wordpress.com/) with recipes and information. Coincidentally, her latest entry is about having friends over for roast beef with blackened seasonings, prepared in a slow cooker (along with smashed redskins and strawberry shortcake). I like what Mauri writes about entertaining:
“We had a great evening. I know if you wait for everything to be perfect, you will never have anyone over. Friends are so very forgiving. They don’t care if everything is perfect. They just want to see you.”
Try Troyers in Walnut Creek for pot pie noodles. I bought a package several years ago in Amish Country. They were more rectangle than diamond shaped, but were called pot pie noodles on the label.
Dear Barbara: This is the first I’ve heard of commercially made pot pie noodles. Thanks for the tip
A gallon of mayo????
Dear J.A.: I assume you’re referring to my friend’s recipe for Jimmy’s creamy garlic dressing from the Jan. 4 newsletter. Yes, she made it in gigantic batches for the restaurant. To make one quart, divide everything by 4. That’s still a lot, but I would hesitate to cut the recipe further.
From Becky Tompkins:
I’ve read with interest your collection of sauerkraut ball recipes. They all sound good, but they all sound like a lot of work! I found this recipe years ago in some kind of newsletter. They’re very simple and very good!
- 1 lb. bulk sausage
- 1 lb. can sauerkraut, drained
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- Bread crumbs
Brown the sausage until there is no more pink. Add sauerkraut and cream cheese. Blend together until the cheese melts. Put in refrigerator until cold. Roll into 1″ balls. Dip balls in milk, then roll in bread crumbs. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes 40-45 balls.
Guten Appetit! [It says the recipe is from Germany.]
Dear Becky: Boy, this DOES sound easy. I also like the fact that they’re baked instead of fried. Thanks for sharing.
From Michele Kisthardt, Hudson:
Someone took my son pheasant hunting, and he brought home a plastic bag full of pheasant (pieces? – looks like a bunch of chicken breasts). I’ve never cooked or eaten pheasant and there weren’t many appealing recipes online. Most recipes cooked or roasted the entire bird. Do you or your readers have a recipe to recommend? Can it be a substitute for pork or chicken? Thanks for any help you can offer.
Dear Michele: Pheasant is very lean, so it must be handled carefully. I recommend browning the pieces, then cooking slowly in a liquid – essentially a braise, or fricassee.
I cooked pheasant just once, and didn’t feel it was worth the effort for the paltry amount of meat the bird produced. I simmered the pheasant in a wine sauce and served it over polenta. I know there are many recipes for roast pheasant. In some, bacon slices are placed over the breast to keep the meat moist. I don’t think this works. Pheasant is just too dry. I suggest you stick to fricassees. Here’s the recipe I used:
- 1 pheasant, 2 to 3 lbs., cut into 6 serving pieces
- Salt, pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 tsp. dried rosemary
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tsp. tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 2 tbsp. fresh-grated Parmesan cheese
Lightly season pheasant pieces with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Add onion, bacon, rosemary, cloves and bay leaves and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion softens, about five minutes.
Add pheasant pieces and cook until golden on both sides, about five minutes per side.
Stir in tomato paste, then wine, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until pheasant is tender.
Transfer pheasant to a platter or wide, shallow bowl and keep warm. Bring sauce to a boil. Boil until thickened and reduced to one cup. Pour over pheasant.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Serve with polenta, rice or couscous. Serves two to four.
I love America’s Test Kitchen. The recipes usually come out perfectly. I recently saw a recipe for traditional black beans and rice. I followed the recipe but could not get the beans to soften. Too bad, because the remainder of the recipe was really great. I soaked the beans overnight — probably about 18 hours. After soaking, the recipe called for cooking the beans for about 40 minutes. I cooked them for an hour and a half but the beans were still fairly hard. Do you have any suggestions? I went ahead and made the recipe with the hard beans. The rice was excellent.
Dear Mike: Experts say that salt can make the beans tough if added during cooking rather than at the end. I don’t think this is your problem, though. My best guess is that your beans were just really dry – possibly from age. My suggestion if you encounter this problem again is to bring the beans to a boil and soak a few hours more before proceeding with the recipe. Anyone else have a better idea?
From Barbara Wendell:
Re: Your column about pomegranates. This is also persimmon season. We ate them a lot when we lived in Florida. They are full of vitamins and fiber. We could get a bag full of about 10 to 12 for $3 from a roadside fruit stand or $1.29 each in the grocery store. They are a another funny little fruit, that looks like a small orangish tomato, but they are firm, sweet and delicious. Where can I buy them in Summit County?
Dear Barbara: I’m surprised you haven’t found them in grocery stores. If available, they’d probably be in the tropical/exotic fruit section, near the mangos and pomegranates. I bought one last weekend at an Asian grocery store. Another good place to look is in produce stores such as Krieger’s Market in Cuyahoga Falls (http://www.kriegersmarket.com/) and Figaro Farms in Uniontown.
From Jean Brown:
We were regulars at Yocono’s restaurant when we lived in Akron for more than 50 years. On Saturdays the restaurant served stuffed bell peppers in a plate-sized metal pan with a handle. It was broiled or baked in this pan with a toasted red sauce with some cheese around the sides of the bell pepper. Can you help me find a recipe?
Dear Jean: I don’t have this Yocono’s recipe, but I’m hoping someone else does. If they share it, I’ll forward it to you. Your description makes me sorry I missed those stuffed peppers.