Before I start, this will be long…begin at your own risk! And most importantly, thank you to Celia for hosting our monthly kitchen get together!
Quite a few things have been happening in my life in recent months, but little of it in the kitchen. Due to food sensitivities as well as other priorities my cooking has been basic and probably not innovative, but not lacking in flavour. I’ve found myself reverting to old tried and true recipes from my past. And my past includes liberal use of a slow cooker! I’ve had a slow cooker, then called a ‘crock pot’, for about 40 years. Frankly, I can’t even believe I just wrote that, and that it is true!! That was a fast 40 years!
I’ve kept the little manual that came with it, since it is far better than any subsequent literature received with other slow cookers; though I hardly use any recipes these days as my tastes have mostly regressed to simple. Based on various comments I’ve had from previous posts, I gathered there was a wide ranging set of experiences for those trying to use a slow cooker, so for whatever it’s worth, here is my take on it.
This may surprise you, but I use it in the summer as well as the colder months. I love it because I can cook a roast or stew a chicken to utter tenderness with very little heat getting into the kitchen. That is a bonus where we live! But it would be of no interest if the result wasn’t full of flavour and tender. For a beef bolar roast or a whole chicken I do the following:
1-2 stalks of celery, chopped into large pieces
1 large carrot cut into large pieces
a few sprigs of fresh parsley
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp sea salt
juice from half a lemon
Place all of these ingredients on the bottom of the cooker. Lay the meat on top and in the case of a chicken, place it breast side down. Cover with water to about 2/3 the way up the meat/chook. Lid on, cook on slow/low setting for 6 hrs for chook, 8 hours for beef. Debone the chicken before serving, strain the broth and use for soup later. Serve either with salad or steamed or roasted vegetables. For leftovers, make chicken salad later, and slice the beef for sandwiches or Vietnamese style beef salad in the summer.
Tip: For the chicken, once I’ve removed the meat from the bones, I pour maybe a third of a cup of the broth over the meat to store it and keep it flavourful and moist.
My preference is to buy organic or free range chicken and pastured beef. I almost never cook stews in my slow cooker and the old adage of using lesser quality cuts cooked slowly is not my thing. But if you have a family and like stews, it does a good job with those as well. We like the meat sliced thinly and used for sandwiches and salads or with steamed veg in subsequent days.
To cook a silverside (corned beef) in the slow cooker I do the following:
1 stalk of celery, chopped into large pieces
1 large carrot cut into large pieces
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp prepared mustard (stir in some water so that it mixes with the rest)
1 tsp brown sugar
Place above ingredients into bottom of the slow cooker, then place the meat on top, fill with water to within about 50mm (1.5 inches) of the top of the cooker and cook long and slow, 8 or 9 hours. I prefer to cook my vegetables separate, as we like braised cabbage and roasted carrots or pumpkin and potatoes with silverside. Sorry, no white sauce at my house, we use our favourite horseradish that is grown in South Australia at Rusticana. (I have noticed in the USA, corned beef is sold with a flavour packet included. Use that as it contains most of the ingredients I’ve listed above, but do add the carrot and celery for extra flavour)
TIP: Once you have eaten what you want for your meal, allow the leftover meat to go cold in the strained broth. This keeps the sliverside nice and moist.
Having said I almost never cook stews in my cooker, I do sometimes cook bean soup. Due to dietary/digestive requirements, I soak tinned beans for at least 18 hours prior to cooking them with the ham. If I have a leftover, meaty ham bone I place it in the cooker with the following:
1 medium carrot, finely chopped into tiny dice
2 bay leaves
½ tsp salt
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
4 x 400g tins pre-soaked cannellini or other similar beans
Cover with water and cook on low/slow for 8 hours. I usually like to make a gluten free cornbread to serve with it. My husband is in heaven with this meal as it takes him back to his grandma’s house in Virginia.
As well as pulled pork (link amended 6/6/15), there is one other favourite meal I make in the slow cooker and it is a nod to both my husband’s and my German heritage.
Pork Scotch fillets cooked with sauerkraut, cabbage and potatoes.
This one starts with the meat on the bottom, then layer up with finely sliced potatoes (3-4), covered with finely sliced cabbage then a layer of sauerkraut. The cabbage can be omitted but not the sauerkraut. If you are wondering if the sauerkraut should be rinsed, yes, but only lightly. Retaining some of the salty brine on the kraut is good.
4 pork scotch fillets
3-4 thinly sliced potatoes
2 x 400g tins sauerkraut, to which I add 1tsp caraway seeds, two bay leaves, three sprigs fresh thyme and some fresh or tinned small mushrooms-optional
¼ finely shredded green cabbage
2 T dry sherry or white wine
weak chicken broth or water
salt and pepper
2 T butter, dotted around the top layer
Add some freshly cracked pepper and a bit of salt to the meat layer and the potato layer, but not the kraut layer. Sprinkle the dry sherry or white wine over the final layer, then pour over the chicken broth if you have it, or just water is fine, and dot with butter over the top. Cook on low for 8 hrs. This is a great, easy one pot meal, if you like the German flavours.
Sorry for the length of this post—happy eating!