(ARA) – Winter is right around the corner, and nothing says comfort like coming in the door and smelling a delicious and nutritious dinner just a moment away.
Crock pots, the wonderful invention of the late 1970s, make all that possible. First introduced by Rival under the trademarked name Crock-Pot, they are a busy family’s lifeline. Put the ingredients in the crock the night before, stick it in the fridge, turn it on before you leave for work, and by the time you walk in the door at night, it’s done. Crock pots insulator properties keep the cooking temperature even so it doesn’t require constant attention.
Many professional chefs are big fans of crock pots. Chef Ken Goodman, department chair for Culinary Arts at The Art Institute of New York City says “Nothing beats the crock pot for convenience, and with its slow, gentle cooking action, you can get beautiful, braised meats just loaded with flavor.”
Among his favorite crock pot recipes is Crock Pot Coffee Bean Pot Roast. “Add your leftover fresh brewed morning coffee to the meat, vegetables and tomatoes, cook for 8 to 10 hours and you’ll have an absolutely delicious meal waiting for you when you get home,” says Chef Goodman. For something slightly more exotic, but just as easy, Chef Goodman likes a simple Crock Pot Lamb Stew. “It’s all about the slow cooking, and giving the meat and vegetables time to release all their flavors,” he adds.
At the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Chef Odette Smith Ransome extols the virtues of crock pot cooking to her students. “Many of my students cook for their whole families, even though they are full-time students,” she says. “I encourage them to use crock pots and experiment with different kinds of spices and vegetables” adds Chef Smith Ransome.
Chef Smith Ransome’s crock pot cooking tips include:
- Only fill the crock pot 3/4 full with liquid to avoid spill over when the food comes to a full boil. This is especially important if you won’t be home when the crock pot is on.
- A hot cooking trend now in restaurants is slow cooking and comfort foods. This is the bread and butter of the crock pot cooking approach. Pretty much whatever Grandma did can be done in a crock pot. Try some of her recipes and see for yourself.
- When seasoning dishes for a crock pot, make sure to taste and season at the end of the cooking cycle as well. Spices can lose their strength as they cook.
Chances are you already have a crock pot sitting in your basement. If you haven’t tried it recently, dust it off, add some ingredients and turn it on. The end-product will be better tasting, better for you, and more satisfying than take-out or pizza any night of the week.
Recipes Courtesy of Chef Ken Goodman
The Art Institute of New York City
- 4 pounds lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 8 each cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped fine
- 1 cup good quality dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil
- 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 roasted red bell peppers, cut into ½ inch strips
- 1 large ripe tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
- 3 tablespoons flat parsley, chopped fine
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ cup dry, full-bodied red wine
- ½ cup chicken broth or chicken stock
- Combine the lamb, half of the garlic cloves, rosemary and white wine in a medium bowl. Let marinate for six hours or even overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the meat and pat dry with paper towels (discard the marinade).
- Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Return all meat to the pot and add the onions, the rest of the garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook, scraping browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon, until the onions are soft, about five minutes. Stir in paprika, roasted peppers, tomatoes, bay leaf, chicken stock and red wine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until juices in pot reduce and thicken slightly, about 10-15 minutes.
- Transfer the stew into a crock pot set to medium low heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is very tender, two to two and a half hours. Add parsley, adjust seasonings and serve.