Sunday, February 15, 2009

Slow Cooking the Crazed Kitchen Way

My college roommate Julia has a wonderful blog called Hooked On Houses that tracks decorating trends, celebrity houses, Home-a-ramas -- basically anything involved with the housing market. I see the spacious, clutter-free homes on her site, and go away to a world that does not entail a small Cape Cod filled with the toys of three kids and the overwhelming book stacks of two ratpack adults. Some day, I tell myself.

This is a great parallel to our food life. Things have been more hectic than normal lately, with my work travel increasing and Sylvia getting more mobile and feisty, and I find I'm spending my time thumbing through cookbooks that celebrate slow, unfettered kitchen time; long meals stretching long into the night; and an insistence on ingredients of only the best quality. A favorite line I recently read, "If you've ever been to Barcelona, you know some of the best anchovies in the world are found there." I'm dreaming of a time when I can not only travel to Barcelona, but have the clarity of mind to recognize the superiority of its anchovies.

Meanwhile, I'm letting the books take me away, like a Calgon bath. My two favorites for these armchair cooking trips recently have been David Tanis's A Platter of Figs (and Other Recipes) and Paula Wolfert's The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen: Recipes for the Passionate Cook.

The reality is that these days on those nights when we don't have take-out or "silly supper" (i.e., breakfast for supper, which is usually cereal) or warmed-up frozen corndogs, my best friend has become my slow cooker. I'm always of two minds on the slow cooker because it seems things either come out breathtakingly wonderful, or are a one-color brown mess that I picture being served in a cut-rate nursing home. And cooking in our slow-cooker always means we'll have enough food to feed the block, so it's not a tool I pull out daily.

A recent boon to my slow-cooker repertoire has been the discovery of A Year of CrockPotting, an amazing blog in which writer and slow-cooker addict Stephanie chronicled her successful attempt to cook with her trio of slow cookers every day for a year. I can't even imagine how much food this would produce, but I love the blog nonetheless.

Two recent recipes I've tried and loved are the rib recipe Nikki Royer included in her interview a couple years ago (even my picky boys love ribs) and a slightly modified version of the Taco Soup recipe from A Year of Crockpotting. (Stephanie's original recipe is here.)

Stephanie raved about the recipe, and I have to admit when I initially made it, I was somewhat "meh" on the first night we had it. But it made a ton of soup, so I ate it for lunch for a week, and every day it got better until by Friday I was thinking about it all morning and ripping into my lunch at 11:20. If I were making it for a crowd, like for a Super Bowl party, I'd be inclined to make it a couple days early, refrigerate it to let the flavors all meld together, and reheat it before the guests came. I'd also serve it with sour cream, shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes... you get the idea. I also liked that this helped clear out my pantry; I tend to stock up on canned food like I'm preparing for the apocalypse.

Be sure to have your recycling bin cleared out before you start this. You'll be filling it!

Slightly Modified Taco Soup

1 pound ground meat
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch dressing mix
2 cans of kidney beans, drained
2 cans of black beans, drained
2 cans of corn, drained
1 large can of diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can mild chopped chiles, undrained
About half a can (use one of the bean cans) of water

Brown and drain the meat. Put the meat in the slow cooker. Sprinkle the seasoning mixes on top. Dump everything else on top of that, and cook on low for about 8 hours. While eating, surrounded by your fighting boys and yelling baby girl, take a moment to dream of the superior anchovies in Barcelona.

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Blogger She's Crafty said...

I love silly suppers (and your blog)! A Platter of Figs and Slow Mediterranean are two of my favorite cookbooks. Paula has a new book coming out this fall on claypot cooking, which sounds right up your alley. I'm really excited for that one. I have a slow cooker book that just came out, that I will give you - the author is the food editor of the LA Daily News, Natalie Haughton. Lora Brody and Rick Rodgers also have great books on the subject if you're looking for some more inspiration :)

5:19 AM  
Blogger knispel4 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

I just stopped by to see what you were talking about here at Slowish Food and was surprised to see it was ME. Ha. You're so nice to mention my blog.

Can you believe I've never had a slow cooker? Never used one? I need to get with it. Maybe I'll ask for one for my birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, doesn't Sylvia turn 1 soon? Where did that year go??

10:37 AM  

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