Monday, 7 January 2008

A Slow-Cooked Dinner

The Christmas lists in the A&N household this year heavily featured kitchen gadgets. Besides us both (clearly) being into our food, our New and Improved kitchen allows us so much more cupboard space that we felt obliged to start gracing them with gizmos. Since we stayed in London for Christmas rather than traveling to see my family in New York, my Amazon wishlist gave people a chance to get gifts for us from a distance. The result was a veritable United Nations of objects: a hefty tagine, a lovely old-school pasta maker, a large paella dish, and a slow cooker (I'm not sure what country the slow cooker represents, but there we are).

Friends of ours heartily recommended the slow cooker way o
f preparing dinners while at work during the day, setting it going in the morning and arriving home to the finished article. Mr A&N and I were both easily convinced: we enjoy our one-pot meals anyway, and one evening a week in which we don't undertake heavy-duty cooking but could still enjoy a meal made by us has some very obvious appeal.

We've made two different slow-cooked meals since getting the appliance, both times while friends were around for a silly games day (between our new Wii and a large number of board games, our silly gaming cup runneth over). The first meal featured pork with white wine, sage, onions, cooking apples, and pears. The pork came out tender but the sauce didn't thicken as we would have liked and the separate flavors got lost in the general taste. Our second time around, we made beef with kidneys, onion, celeriac, carrot, thyme, a glug of red wine, and some flour to thicken the sauce. Again, it came out a touch on the watery side and mostly tasting of meat. Not a bad taste if you're a carnivore, but not the same flavor as you would have expected from all those things cooking together over a 6 hour period. Our friends were polite (and hungry - after 4 hours of playing games you can work up an appetite ) but we didn't feel the meal was up to the standard of cooking we would normally treat guests to.

Mr A&N has summed up the two meals we've made as tasting of the filling in a meat pie without the pleasure of the pastry. I still want to believe in the magic of the slow cooker (being able to prepare your night's dinner as you head off to work in the morning is the efficient person's dream) but we haven't found the right formula with it yet. I'll now be on the hunt for some slow cooker recipes and ideas, so if anyone has any suggestions or leads I will be very happy to hear them.


Deborah said...

I received a new slow cooker for Christmas, as well. I had a smaller one before, but wanted a bigger one! I have a hard time finding good recipes - mainly because of the water issue. Things made in the slow cooker tend to be more watery than they otherwise would be. I have found that soups/stews/chili works the best.

Emiline said...

I've never used a slow-cooker, but I wish you good luck. Like Deb said, maybe try making some soup.

I have heard about making cakes and desserts in a slow-cooker. You might have fun with that.

Annemarie said...

Hi Deboarh - thanks for the tip about the water. I have started to realize that, but it seems difficult to balance out the need to sauces and moisture and the excess of water it generates. We're trying it again tomorrow though with coating the meat in flour and browning it slightly before putting it in the cooker. Wish us luck!

Hi Emiline - I am tempted by the dessert idea, though haven't yet figure out which I'd do. My slower cooker is really massive,though, so it would be a big dessert whatever it is!