Monday, November 24, 2008

More Crock Pottery

ML requested a post about some of the stuff I've been making in the crock pot lately. There's not, I'm afraid, too much to tell. I don't usually follow recipes, and if I do use one now and again, it's more as a guideline than anything else. So unfortunately, I can't offer much in the way of replicable meals, but perhaps some general ideas and observations will suffice.

After my first two crock potting endeavors (here) I tried the bean stew ML recommended. All they had at the store, when I was shopping for ingredients, was a 16-bean mix, so I got that instead of the suggested navy beans. I tossed in the bones from the pork chops we'd had the night before, along with a couple of frozen chicken thighs and enough broth/water to just cover everything. I did find that I had to add some more liquid after a few hours because the beans had soaked it all up, and the ones on the top were getting dry, so perhaps some more broth from the start would have been a good idea. I let it cook for 8 hours, and in the end, the 1 pound of beans yielded enough food for 4 dinners. Whipped up some corn bread to accompany, and it was a pretty satisfying meal. The stew was actually more the consistency of chili, but without being spicy.

I've cooked frozen chicken a couple of more times. Once I did an improvised red curry dish (using a jar of Trader Joe's red curry sauce). I potted some chicken thighs (again, frozen) and vegetables, poured the jar of sauce over the top, and added enough veggie broth to keep everything nice and hydrated. A couple of nights ago, I tried chicken and carrots with veggie broth and a bit of caesar dressing, which turned out oilier than I'd have liked (especially upon reheat).

The main things I've noticed so far is that I haven't quite got the hang of not cooking all of the flavor out of the meat. It's all very fall-off-the-bone tender, but it frequently doesn't taste like all that much. So that is somewhat perplexing. Another thing I've read in various crock pot recipes is that it's always best to put a layer of some sort of vegetable (usually onions or carrots) on the bottom of the pot to shield any meat from the main heat and prevent it from turning to mush. I can't verify if skipping this veg layer will cause said mushiness, since I've always employed it, but it seems like a fine enough thing to keep anyway.

I would like to try a crock pot lasagna. I wonder if cooking chicken or ribs or whatever for a shorter amount of time will keep all the flavor from leaching out, or if I just need to use a more flavor-concentrated liquid than mere vegetable broth. I've also heard you can make brownies in a crock pot, and I am unreasonably intrigued by this prospect. Part of me is afraid that they wouldn't come out well, which would be a shame and a waste of a perfectly good batch of brownies, but the other part of me is all, "Brownies in a crock pot! Who knew?! It sounds so awesome!" Maybe a quiche? (I'm not sure if that's an option...seems it'd be tricky with the crust and whatnot.) I don't know. But I'll try to keep you informed of any exciting things I manage.

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