Get out of the kitchen…

8 Dec

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”  -W. C. Fields

I rely heavily on a slow cooker to prepare dinner at least once a week – and if you’re not making use of yours – read on for some lifesaving tips!

My first real experience using a slow cooker – namely the original slow cooker – the Rival Crockpot – was back in 1976 when I moved to Kansas City with my husband. I was hired for a two week stint in their test kitchen to fill in for a home economist on vacation. The slow cooker craze had exploded and Rival couldn’t make them fast enough! At the time they had three full-time home economists writing and testing recipes five days, 40 hours+ a week for the the miniature cookbooks that were packaged with every slow cooker. The department even had a full-time employee whose only job was to prep the food for cooking – peel and slice carrots, onions, measure out ingredients, etc. – and the best part – do all the dishes!

Of course I had received a slow cooker as a wedding present two years earlier but my couple of attempts at using it produced meat resembling shoe leather! Ah, but soon I learned the slow cooker technique and was immediately hooked.

Start simple – and make a pot roast – a wonderful, stick-to-the-ribs kind of meal appropriate for the winter months – wherever you live. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1-2 celery stalks, chopped (optional)
  • 6-10 miniature yukon gold potatoes, washed but not peeled*
  • 1 3-4 lb.boneless pot roast, a ka chuck roast, trimmed of visible fat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 -3/4 cup water, beef broth or wine (I use whatever leftover red wine I have on hand)

Prepare all ingredients the night before so first thing in the morning, you can simply add them to your slow cooker, flip on the switch and be on your way for the day.

Trim this visible layer of fat!

Place vegetables in the bottom of the stoneware bowl. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Top with trimmed pot roast. Add water/broth/wine and add additonal seasoning. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours. If you’re short on time, set it to high for 5-6 hours.

Don’t peek. When it’s time for dinner, remove meat and vegetables to a platter and use drippings to make gravy (optional). See my Thanksgiving post for the best fat strainer ever. Thicken with flour and serve on the side. Allow meat to rest at least 5 minutes so it will be easier to slice.
*The mini yukon gold potatoes are the perfect size and texture for all day cooking. If you can’t find them, thinly slice several russet potatoes instead.
Here’s what the finished dish should look like! Don’t be afraid to add/subtract additional vegetables. Some folks swear by pre-browning the meat; frankly I don’t see a difference. Hint: opt for a good quality piece of  meat. Stick with your tried and true meat department and stay away from too-good-to-be true bargain cuts.
Not ready to tackle a pot roast? Make chili from a store-bought mix – the kind where you just add tomato sauce and water to browned beef. Throw it all in the slow cooker and let it cook on low all day! Add additional water if mixture seems dry. I usually serve it chili-mac style over cooked spaghetti – however you serve it, be sure to provide the fixins’ – e.g. chopped onions, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped jalapenos, etc. so everyone can personalize their chili.
I have a whole cadre of tried and true slow cooker recipes – let me know if you want more!

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