I pulled out the old crock pot a few days ago and I gotta say I'm really glad I did.
I feel silly for not having taken advantage of this culinary time machine sooner.
Last Thursday I made a leg of lamb, Sunday was a pot roast, and twice now I've made a giant batch of oatmeal that has become a hearty breakfast staple for the past week. The crock pot is awesome. It lets me assemble ingredients, set the temperature, and then walk away for eight or more hours. When I come back, my meal is done. What could be more awesome than that?
Here's what you need to know:
If you don't already have a crock pot get a BIG one. The newer models even have timers that let you set the cook time and then switch over to the Keep Warm setting. These are gold. You could leave that puppy for 12 or 14 hours and come home to a perfectly prepared meal.
Think seasonings. The biggest fault of crock pot food is that it can be bland, especially if it's overcooked. Solve this with ample amounts of salt and pepper, aromatics, like onions, garlic and herbs, and acids like tomato paste, wine, vinegar, or fruit juice.
Go for volume. The whole point of having a crock pot is being able to cook up a whole mess of food with minimal effort. Even with my large family we can get two or more meals from a roast and I only need to make a pot of oatmeal twice a week. For you guys with smaller families take advantage of that freezer and put food up for a later time.
The Internet is flooded with crock pot recipes, paleo, vegan, Martha Stewart and Paula Dean. However you like to eat, whatever you like to eat, there's most likely a crock pot version of it.
Here are two of my standards.
1 or 2 Chuck roasts (Sam's and Costco sell these two at a time, if there's room you can cook both at the same time.)
6 or 7 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 Onions, sliced
I can tomato paste
1/4 cup vinegar (whatever suits your fancy, red wine, balsamic, and apple cider all work well)
1 3/4 cups Stock (beef, chicken or even vegetable works fine)
Salt and Pepper
Chopped potatoes (B Reds or fingerlings work well)
Rub the roast with salt and pepper. Smear liberally with the tomato paste and put in the crock pot. Add the garlic, sliced onions, vinegar and stock. Cover with the potatoes and add more salt and pepper. Set the crock pot on high for 7 or 8 hours or set at the low setting for 10 or 11 hours. Go live your life.
When it's done you can make this even more awesome by making a gravy. Remove the potatoes and the meat from the pot. Use a fat separator cup (a worthy tool if ever there was one) or one of these methods to separate the stock from the fat. Put three tablespoons of the fat in a skillet. Add three tablespoons of flour (gluten free flour works just as well). Stir together over medium high heat until the fat and flour are well blended and begin to cook together. Take a wire whisk and slowly start adding stock into your fat/flour mixture (roux). Add the liguid slowly and whisk it into the roux well to keep lumps out of your gravy. Add liquid until it gets to your desired consistency. Taste and season (that means add salt and pepper) as appropriate. You'll probably find it's plenty of salty enough and just needs a little more pepper.
Once that's done, make a salad or some other vegetable and BAM! (sorry, Emeril) you've got dinner.
Put three cups of water from every one cup of Old Fashioned Oats in your crock pot. Add a little bit of salt and whatever fruit you'd like. Frozen fruit works as well as fresh. Set on low and go to bed. When you get up you'll have a huge steaming pot of oatmeal. I fortify mine with goodies like protein powder, coconut milk, maple syrup, or peanut butter. Chunks of dark chocolate would probably be quite tasty, as would walnuts, pecans or other roasted nuts.
This can make quite a huge batch, refrigerate the leftovers and reheat in the microwave as needed.
To our perfect imperfection,