Monday, November 16, 2009

Crock Pot Shenanigans

By  popular demand:  CROCK POT POST.

That's my Crock Pot right there.  Ain't she pretty?

I've been a Crock Pot fool lately.  I'm making myself so worried about getting dinner on the table when I'm out of the house two nights a week (and one of those two, so is E) that I needed a little help.  The best thing about the CP is that you can dump stuff in there and it will be ready for you when you get home.  It makes the house smell GREAT, and it makes the kinds of meals I crave in winter.  Warm, and gravy-laden.

Part of the problem on Mondays, when E is working two hours from home and I am teaching ballet, is that we both come home RAVENOUS.  I think that all this Crock-Potting is helping us avoid takeout food.  The other thing I like about it is that it's a good way to cook meat/ stuff I can use for leftovers for the rest of the week.

For a while I was using the CP to make a whole chicken every Sunday.  I still really like this idea.  It's way cheaper to cook a whole chicken than several chicken breasts. That way we also have a hearty Sunday dinner and I have several cups of shredded chicken to use in salads, rice bowls, wraps, etc for the rest of the week.  Since I get sick of sandwiches really easily, the pre-cooked chicken meat seems to help me bring my lunch from home with more regularity and more variety.  The rest of that chicken will last me through the week.  The thing you have to realize about the CP is that you usually need two things: liquid, and time.  It's hard to go wrong with those two things in abundance, and you can pretty much throw in whatever you have on hand.  Example: How I cook a chicken.

P's CP Chicken

Ingredients:

Whole chicken (rinsed and unidentifiable parts removed)
liquid (chicken broth, veggie broth, white wine, or beer)--about 4-6 cups?
spices (whatever you like)

Procedure:

1. Put chicken in CP, breast side down
2. Pour liquid over chicken so it covers it about half/ most of the way (anywhere in there is good)
3. Dump spices in.
4. Put CP on low.
5. Leave alone for 6-8 hours.  When it's finished, the chicken will fall off the bone and shred easily.

Variations: cut up chicken pieces, chicken breasts, pork roasts.  All work the same.  Easy peasy.

If you already have a CP, you're like DUH, Partington, but listen--not everybody who reads this blog is as awesome as you are, Suzie Homemaker.  I needed to start small.







Okay, cookbooks.  Here it is.  This one is GOLDEN.  My Gram bought it for me and Lis for Christmas a few years ago and we've both used it a lot.  It has a ton of variations on each theme (soup, stew, pork chops, etc.)

At first I followed the recipes to a T, but now I'm more of a "dump in whatever is on hand" girl.  One thing that's great about this book is that you can see the variety of things that people put in a CP and it still comes out awesome.  Basically, it's hard to screw up.  There is no connection between that statement and the next one, but... E has even used to to make beef stew on several occasions and it was really good.

Okay, I screwed up a soup one time, but it was because I ignored my own rule about having enough liquid.  It turned into black bean cement.  Not every attempt is a winner.  Forgive yourself and move on.  Don't hate the Crock Pot, hate the game.  What?  Nvm.

I believe that Gram bought this at Costco.  They have several other ones (as do I) but this one seems to be the most extensive and most helpful.  It's pretty old school (and if we're saying that about a CP cookbook, it must be REALLY old school) but I like it.  It reminds me of potlucks and church ladies and good, wholesome livin'.  Nothing wrong with that.

Here are just a few of the things I've made in the CP in the past few weeks.

Tonight: Baked Beans with Pork

Ingredients:

Dry Pinto Beans
Dry Navy Beans
One leftover pork chop (see recipe below)--bacon would work well too
Leftover drippings from pork chops (see recipe below)
Garlic pepper
Cumin
Salt
Lawry's Season Salt
Water

Procedure:
1. Soak 2 cups of beans (mixed) in 6 cups of water overnight.  I put 'em right there in the CP.
2. Dump in pork chop drippings and leftover pork chop (shredded)
3. Season. (We like a lot of seasoning!)
4. Add about 2 cups of water.
5. Put CP on low.  Leave alone for 8 hours.  Serve with cornbread.

You guys, BEANS ARE SO CHEAP.  I THINK THIS WHOLE DINNER COST LIKE $0.12.  I might be off a little on that though.  I don't believe in the maths so much.

YUM!

Sunday night: Pork Chops

Ingredients:

Pork chops (3/4-1 inch thick)--we had three
1/3 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
olive oil
garlic pepper
poultry seasoning
1 packet ranch dressing seasoning
2 large russet potatoes (cut into eigths
2 cups beef broth (I use boullion cubes in boiling water)
salt

Procedure:

1. Put a small amount of oil in a frypan.  Season chops with garlic pepper, poultry seasoning.
2. Sear the outside of chops until they're a nice brown color.
3.  Mix boullion with ranch seasoning, pour in crock pot.
4. Add onions.
5. Add seared chops, potatoes.
(Make sure liquid comes most of the way up the chops.  If not, add more.)
6. Put CP on low. Leave alone for 8-10 hours.

I mashed up the potatoes after they were cooked because that's what I felt like.  I used the remaining liquid and the leftover chop for the baked beans the next day.

Last Monday: Cheater Stew

I think this might be a heresy, posting this here.  "It is a sin to write this..." (Anthem, anyone?) but I'm going to post my cheater stew that I made last week.  Just to show you that I'm not perfect (not that you had any illusions, huh?) BUT I TOTALLY CHEATED.

Ingredients:

stew meat (a cheap cut of beef with lots of fat marbling, cut up into cubes)
potatoes
carrots
beef broth
1 packet of instant beef gravy (cheater status!)
flour
garlic pepper (I put it in everything!)
Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning

Procedure:
1. Put beef cubes in a bag with some flour.  Shake to coat.
2. Put a small amount of oil in a frypan.  Dump in beef.  Season.  A lot. Brown.
3. Cut up carrots and potatoes into bite-sized chunks.
4. Pour about 4-6 cups of beef broth into the CP.  (I often make mine extra strong.)
5. Add beef gravy packet.
6. Add browned beef, veggies.
7. Put CP on low. Leave alone for 6-8 hours.

I promise I know how to make my own flavorful, thick broth, but I wasn't feelin' it that night.  Gravy did the trick and it worked fine.  No harm in cheating once in a while.


Today's lesson: Crock Pots are easy, kids.

Remember, lots of liquid + time.  That's the secret formula.  Better to have more than you think you need in the liquid and flavor departments, if you ask me.  Fatty things cook well in the crock pot because they cook slowly.  Don't rush--though you'll be tempted to put the thing on "HIGH", it is not a good idea--our you'll be gnawing on beef jerky stew.  It's a good idea to prep everything the night before, put it in the Crock, and put the Crock in your fridge.  That way you can take it out in the morning and put it on the base and turn it on, no prep.  Veggies that do well are sturdy things like carrot and potato.  Mushy things will break down too easily.  Beef and pork will have a better flavor if you can brown them first but you don't have to.  It's your party.  It's your Crock Pot.  Go nuts.

Good luck and happy Crock Potting!





3 comments:

  1. Nice Post! I'll have to get that book...question: Do your beans turn out nice and soft using a CP and just soaking them overnight? I have never had luck using dry beans in the CP. Maybe the variety used makes a difference...does the book say anything about that?

    ReplyDelete
  2. They came out great, but they cooked about 10 hours by the time we got to eat them. I probably soaked them for about 10 hours overnight. I've never done them in the CP either, but they came out really good. :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for posting this. I got a crock pot at my bridal shower and I've been lamenting lately about not using it. Now I have actual recipes from someone I know! This is great. Do you have any good vegetarian chili recipes? I know I could go and Google one, but someone recipes "from someone" are more encouraging than ones pulled of the Internet or from a cookbook.

    Do you think a working mom invented the crock pot? I do.

    ReplyDelete