Posts Tagged ‘dinner’
Slow cooking is a Mom’s best friend. Add your ingredients, turn on the Crock Pot, set the timer, and go to work. By the time you get home at five or six that night, dinner is done, and your house smells like the best restaraunt you’ve ever been to! The simplicity and ease of use is what makes it so great for busy moms, but slow cooking has been around for centuries, since the days of burying your dinosaur meat in a big pile of hot rocks and letting it sit for a day or two while you rounded up your next kill. Ok, so maybe dinosaur meat is a little bit of a stretch, but since the invention on metal and ceramic pots and pans, the chef has used this method to cook.
Let’s go over a few common terms when sloooooow cooking:
Crock Pot: Common brand of electric insulated pot that cooks food over an internal heat source using a set timer. Get one. They’re incredible.
Dutch Oven: Heavy, thick walled cast iron pot with a recessed lid that is used over a hearth, open flame, buried in hot coals, or in the oven.
Casserole: A large, usually white, ceramic dish that is used to cook a large variety of ingredients at the same time.
Casserole: The name of the dish usually cooked in the casserole dish.
Stew: A mixture of meat and vegetables, usually cut up, added to water, then cooked until soft and the water becomes a sauce.
Braising: Cooking meat in a small amount of water to retain moisture in the meat, most often successful with a fully sealed lid. Water becomes a very strong sauce.
Au Jus: The drippings and flavorings of meat when cooked, usually mixed with water for a sauce. TASTY.
So by now you have a pretty good idea of the basic utensils needed for slow cooking, lets go over some of the different types of ingredients you will likely encounter.
Beef: One of the most satisfying parts of slow cooking is that you can take a less that perfect cut of meat, one that is cheap, chewy, and useless for pretty much any other type of cooking, and turn it into the softest, most tender, delightful cut of beef you’ve ever experienced in your life, just depending on the length of time that you spend cooking said cut of meat. The longer you cook, the better, and the tighter your lid on your pot, the better. Like the old pressure cookers that were common while our parents were growing up, heat, pressure, moisture, and time all combine to tenderize and add flavor to your choice of cut. That tough rump roast, or shank of lamb can be cooked to perfection in eight hours. That chewy deer meat that your third cousin Clyde is always dropping off on your doorstep can become velvety soft and tender like you’ve never tasted it before, and you don’t have to beat it with a mallet, or add gobs and gobs of alkali tenderizer to it.
Vegetables: Veggies both absorb flavor and emit flavor when cooked in the same pot as the rest of your items, becoming soft and juicy while giving that young spring chicken next to it a decidedly carrot like flavor that compliments it very nicely.
Potatoes: Simmering potatoes releases the starches and even sweetens them some, especially the longer they are cooked, while the water they are cooked in often becomes a thicker gravy-like sauce that has the tastes and aroma of the other items in the pot.
Barley, Rice: Can be cooked right along with your first batch of ingredients, and will absorb water and flavor from the other items around it, so adjust your water amounts accordingly.
Pasta: Noodles should be added during the last hour of cooking, as they take the least amount of time to cook usually, unless the recipe calls for very saturated soft pasta.
Slow cooking doesn’t have to be a last minute as you rush out the door dinner idea, but it can work in a pinch. Classier meals can be made with a slow cooker, such a duck confit, or beef ragou. Or you can stick with classic chili-mac or chicken soup. You can even bake with a slow cooker. One of my favorite memories is my brother’s Boy Scout leader making peach cobbler in the remains of our fire pit after seven hours of hiking in the blistering sun and shivering cold of a Florida winter. You can find literally hundreds of recipes online, in the library, and even on TV, (YAY INFORMERCIALS!) that offer great advice, tips and tricks for using the slow cooking device of your choice.