The poor Crock-Pot.
There it sits collecting dust, while Big Green Eggs, Le Creuset roasters and pricy, hip sauté pans take center stage. Long considered a tool that requires little finesse and few skills, the slow cooker seems about as cool as polyester pants or sandals with black socks. It routinely gets short shrift in an era that values distinct cooking steps and culinary sophistication.
But the truth is that even as our interest in food has soared, our time continues to shrink, and the dowdy slow cooker has become a handy tool that many frantic cooks are rediscovering. They’re not making cocktail meatballs and drippy pork ribs. Today, slow cooker fans are turning out imaginative dishes that incorporate fresh herbs, trendy flavors and bright, distinct ingredients. Asian short ribs, chick pea curry, farro and fresh vegetables, barley risotto and more are among today’s popular dishes. And even if what you produce is simple and unadorned, who can argue with the thrill of prepping a dish in the morning before work and coming home to something effortless and cozy? Ask around. You’d be surprised at how many people are taking solace in their slow cookers.
Around my house, lentils, along with red, white or black beans frequently emerge from my Crock-Pot. I also like to layer cuts of chicken with uncooked rice, fresh red and yellow peppers, snow peas and with chicken stock, chopped onion, garlic and fresh ginger. Pictured here is the Latin American pulled pork, barbacoa, in which pork shoulder is combined with lime juice, tomatoes, jalapenos and other spices. Homemade mango salsa gives it the right amount of freshness. And on winter mornings, I love overnight steel cut oatmeal cooked with cinnamon, dried cranberries and fresh Granny Smith apples.
Remember the slow cooker should generally be half to three-quarters full, and each time you open the lid, you lose about 20 minutes of cooking time.
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