Slow Cooker Recipes: Slow and Steady Wins the Taste
Think of your slow cooker as the work horse on the farm. She may not be the sleekest piece of equipment on your kitchen counter, but can she ever be a lifesaver, day-in and day-out. Of course, our mothers had slow cookers, but it wasn’t until I started working full time in a city 35 miles away from home that I realized what a blessing dinner in the slow cooker could be on any given day.
Slow cookers are made for busy people who would love to have dinner made when they come home. Slow cookers are made for those of us who wish we had a personal chef at our beck and call. That covers the majority of us. My slow cooker ties with my stand mixer as my most essential kitchen appliance.
And lately, slow cookers seem to be getting a facelift. Just on the shelves at Williams-Sonoma, a book by Brigit Binns called “The New Slow Cooker: Fresh Recipes for the Modern Cook” features a new way to use your slow cooker by enhancing dishes with bright, fresh flavors. Binns admits that a slow cooker can turn out soft textures, watery flavors and dull colors. Her approach is to use herbs, garnishes, salads and other fresh components to heighten flavors and appeal. She also recommends browning some ingredients before they go into the cooker to contribute more complex flavors.
Slow cookers operate on the principle of low and slow heat. The low setting keeps food at 180 degrees and the high setting at 300 degrees. Recipes for the low setting will cook at least 8 hours; the high setting has most food done in 4 hours. The slow cooker also uses a lot less electricity than an oven or stovetop – about as much as a 75-watt light bulb. And, nutritionally speaking, no vitamin or mineral escapes since the lid needs to be left on.
My favorite recipe for the slow cooker is one of the simplest. Use it to roast a chicken, and when you get home at night, it will literally fall off the bone. We use any leftover chicken and the broth in our version of Hearty White Bean Chicken Chili, also a recipe that works well melding flavors in a slow cooker. We’ve also included a recipe for an updated beef stew.