I have a secret weapon – not a bat mobile, not a web shot from my inner wrist, not an iron suit – think domestic secret weapon.
It’s my crock-pot and in fifteen minutes of prep time – I can create the illusion of having slaved in the kitchen for the last ten hours. Magically this appliance takes raw meat and vegetables and creates a main dish, a side and gravy. This satisfies my meat and potato men (separate sides of the plate, please) and my casserole (one dish, less clean-up) mentality.
I’ve heard the concerns about crock pot cooking: the appliance doesn’t cook hot enough to be safe. What if it malfunctions (which has happened and we ordered take-out that night)? What if it sets off a fire when I’m not home? I’m willing to take the risks as I do with all the other appliances plugged into my house. Thankfully no one has gotten ill from one of my crock-pot adventures, and I have yet to burn the house down.
I own about fifteen slow cooking cookbooks, and always looking for a new take on my stainless steel wonder. One of my family’s favorites is pork BBQ. It is stupidly simple and can spawn multiple varieties. One pork butt roast with bone intact (don’t know why the bone matters but it does). Put the roast in the slow cooker ten hours in advance of dinnertime. If I remember, I try to put a liner in the cooker to ease my clean-up. Pour one bottle of BBQ sauce over the top and cook on low for 10+ hours. I keep this one very simple with just meat – but I usually add vegetables to my other slow cooker recipes such as pot roast, chicken and dumplings, (bastardized) chicken cacciatore, or beef stew.
At the end of cooking time (and this works well overnight for lunch, too), all the meat falls off the bone into juicy, tangy ribbons of pork which are easily draped over a sandwich roll. I like it by itself with vinegar BBQ sauce. Throw together some salad, fruit or baked beans, and I have a meal. Turkey or chicken can be substituted for less time with good results.
The best part ….the whole house smells like I’ve cooked all day. Heroically I can serve dinner at 6PM sharp with clean-up by 7. Not faster than a speeding bullet but according to 19th century French chef and author Urbain Dubois, "the ambition of every good cook must be to make something very good with the fewest possible ingredients."