Friday, October 22, 2010

I can cook, too.

We are big fans of the slow cooker meal and use it almost weekly, especially when the weather gets cool and we're craving warm, tasty comfort food. Lately, friends have been asking for some of our favorite recipes and I am happy to oblige. Here are a few recipes that are popular here in the little shanty in Astoria.

Pork and Sauerkraut
This is a Lancaster County favorite, mainly served on New Year's Day. It is said to bring good luck in the coming year and I ate it almost every January 1st until my hiatus from red meat in my 20's. It is traditionally served with mashed potatoes but I started serving it over my mashed potato and root vegetables and it's delish. This recipe was the motivation for getting a slow cooker when, several years ago, I realized that I hadn't had pork and sauerkraut in years and now I ate meat again. I also think it is one of the best hangover meals ever (possibly the real reason it was served every New Year's Day?). This is as simple as it comes.

2-4 lb boneless pork loin (depending on how big your slow cooker is and how many people you want to feed)
2-4 cans of sauerkraut with caraway seeds (usually 1 can per lb works well)
Apple slices (optional)

Place the pork loin in the slow cooker and cover with sauerkraut.
Place slices of apple on top and cover.
Cook on high for 1 hour, then low for 7-8 hours.
Check the pork at around hour 6 and shred as much as possible. If it shreds well it will be ready to eat in about and hour.
Serve traditionally over mashed potatoes and top with a little chopped onion.

Mashed potatoes with root vegetables
This had become our standard whenever we want mashed potatoes

1-1 1/2 lbs potatoes (preferably Yukon Gold)
1/2-3/4 lb root vegetables (parsnips, turnips, carrots)
4 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup chicken broth
3/4 half and half
Salt and pepper
Chives (optional)

I prefer to use parsnips...
Slice root vegetable into 1/4" slices.
Brown in butter for 10-12 minutes over medium high heat.
Slice potatoes into 1/4" slices.
Add to root vegetables, reduce heat and toss together.
Add chicken broth, cover and simmer on low for 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
Mash with a hand masher, add half and half, chives, salt and pepper.

*This recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen and they offer a few tips:
1. Cut the potatoes and root vegetable into "half-moon" slices.
2. Rinse the potato slices numerous times to get rid of excessive starch. It gives the mashed potatoes a better texture.

Beef Stew
This is a great work day slow cooker meal because it requires very little prep and has a long cook time.

1 1/2-2 lbs of beef stew meat, cut into 1" pieces
4 medium potatoes, cut into 1" pieces
4 carrots, cut into 1 1/2" pieces
1 medium onion, cut into large chunks
2 cans (8oz each) of tomato sauce
1 package of frozen peas
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients except frozen peas in the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
Add peas about 30 minutes before eating.

Pork Tacos
Another great work day slow cooker...

2 lb boneless pork loin
1 cup of salsa
1 can (4oz) of chopped green chiles

Place pork in slow cooker.
Mix salsa and green chiles together and pour over pork.
Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours.
Shred pork and cook for at least 30 minutes more.
Serve as hard or soft tacos with shredded cheese, tomatoes, avocado, sour cream and salsa.

Split Pea with bacon
I have loved split pea soup since my mom first served me the Campbell's split pea with ham when I was a kid. My grandmother made a split pea soup that was thick and hearty. This will always remind me of my childhood.

3 cans (14.5oz each) chicken broth
1 package (16oz) dry split peas
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp marjoram
3/4 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
8 slices of bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled (optional)

Place broth, split peas, onion, carrot, celery, herbs and half of the crumbled bacon in slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or until vegetables are tender.
Remove and discard bay leaves.
Served with crumbled bacon on top.

*This can also be made with 8oz of smoked sausage or chicken sausage, sliced lengthwise and then cut into pieces.
Brown sausage in a skillet for 5-8 minutes.
Add in place of bacon.

The best thing about the slow cooker is that you can create your own recipes. Just stick with the basics - protein, vegetables, sauce, seasoning. It's hard to mess up, put together your favorite flavors and see what happens.

No comments: