Weekly Top 5: Slow Cooker Recipes
Despite the negative impact that NBC’s Emmy Award winning drama This is Us has had on slow cookers over the past year or so, many cooks have long been turning up their noses up at this clunky countertop pot — and to be honest, until about two months ago I was one of them.
My mother, a firm believer in the classic cast-iron dutch oven, never owned a pluggable pot and never once did I hear her express desire for such a thing. As a disciple of her teachings in the kitchen, I too strayed away from such an appliance for the majority of my life. However when my husband, who is an incredible cook, a kitchen purist, and and the proud owner of more cast-iron cookery than one could ever imagine — which includes not one but five cast-iron Dutch ovens — suggested we register for a slow cooker, I jumped right on the bandwagon. Inferior to him as I am in the kitchen, (I’m a good cook...but much as I hate to admit it, he’s better) I trusted his instincts and heeded his suggestion: ADD TO REGISTRY. Roughly 3 weeks later, we received our brand spankin’ new slow cooker, delivered right to our front doorstep. We used it the very next day.
Can I just skip ahead to the end and start by telling you that our dinner was perfection!? Because it really was. Not only was the assembly incredibly easy and basically thoughtless, but it required minimal cleanup, offered loads of flavor, and came out juicy, tender, and on time! (In our house we typically eat dinner around 9:30 or 10:00 . . . but on this special occasion, we were cleaning up by 7:45!).
As the proud owner of a slow cooker today, I can’t say I’ll soon want to give it up. But I can say that I’m very diligent about unplugging the dang thing when we’re done with dinner and ready to go to bed.
Check out my Weekly Top 5 Slow Cooker Recipes, which stray slightly from the traditional slow-cooker fare, but will fill you up and warm your soul just the same!
1). Vaguely Vietnamese Pork Tacos
From: NYT Cooking
The best part about this recipe is that it makes tacos. But the second best part about this recipes is that there are often leftovers which just means more. tacos. Go ahead and make the slaw on Sunday when you’re doing your meal prep or watching television because it takes next to zero brain capacity and it’ll be one less thing you’ll need to do during the ratrace of the workweek. The slaw gets better the longer it sits and flavors marry, so stick it in a tupperware in the fridge and then pull it out on Tuesday or Wednesday when you’re ready to shred the pork for your tacos. I prefer corn tortillas (toasted over a gas flame!) over the suggested flour, but you do you, amigo. Tacos > Everything Else.
2). Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Pho
From: America’s Test Kitchen
Typically slow cookers are popular for making heavier, often meatier, stick-to-your-ribs kinds of dishes such as chili, pot roast, or my personal favorite, RoTel dip. So this light and *vegetarian* slow-cooker pho was a welcome surprise from America’s Test Kitchen. Plus, it’s easier than pie to make. Since the broth is the main and arguably most important component to pho, this recipe simply instructs you to add all of the broth ingredients to the slow cooker and let it go. Allow the broth to bubble together for 7ish hours and the flavor will become rich and robust. Then, all you’ve got to do is gather the right noodles and necessary accoutrements: bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, jalapeño, sambal, sriracha...whatever floats your boat!
Psst - want more healthy slow cooker recipes? ATK has a whole book about it: #score
3). Slow Cooker Indian Spiced Chicken with Tomato and Cream
From: Bon Appetit
Sure, the double-pot cooking scenario here (searing the chicken in a cast-iron first and then transferring everything to a slow cooker for the long haul) is not the most desirable, but if you have a fancy enough slow cooker — like this Multi-Cooker, from KitchenAid — you may be able to sear and slow-cook all in the same pot. Lucky you. If you don’t though, I promise it’s worth all the trouble. And with a suggested cook time of 7-8 hours, this recipe is the perfect candidate for a real treat of a weeknight meal: get it all set up in the morning before you dash off to work, and walk in the door at 6pm to a great smelling home and an even better tasting dinner. Talk about a welcome home…
4). Slow-Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup
Another waistline-friendly slow-cooker recipe, this one from Food52 is made mainly of pantry staples, making it an easy fallback when you’re lacking inspiration...or time to go to the grocery. Although it calls for fresh basil and oregano, feel free to sub the dried variety in the soup and just use fresh, chopped Italian parsley as a garnish (fresh basil and oregano can be especially tough to find when you need them both...isn’t that just the way?). And grate on some extra cheese, why dontcha!? Make sure to get some good crusty bread to go with it so you can sop up all of that delicious tomato sauce, too. Mangia!
5). Mom’s New Orleans Red Beans & Rice
To me, red beans and rice is one of those dishes that is one of the most comforting, soul-filling, autumnal dinner foods. Maybe its because the colors of the dish mirror the season — the deep burnt red of the beans and ham, soft browns of the rice and sausage, occasional flecks of army green from herbs and peppers, and bright flecks of yellow from a trail of cornbread crumbs — but I just think it would feel off to eat it during any other time of year. Maybe it’s because it’s always a staple at our house when we’re watching the Saints game on a Sunday afternoon. Or maybe it’s just because of the mixture of smokey, hearty, rich and creamy that come together all at once. I dunno what it is, but I know it’s damn good.
Note: this recipe calls for dried beans instead of the canned variety, which makes it just a little more decadent and grand … in a lowcountry kind of way. Go on, give it a try.
Feature Photo: James Random for Food52