Experiments with slow cooking
Thursday, November 19, 2009 | 09:08 AM ET
By Elizabeth Bridge, CBC Digital Archives
A couple of weeks ago, my husband came home with a second-hand score: an enormous slow cooker. Envisioning tender roasts and tasty stews waiting for us at the end of a workday, he'd scooped it up for $20. There was no manual, but with just two settings – High and Low – and an Up/Down button to control the cooking time, how hard could it be?
Trying out new recipes is part of the thrill of getting a slow cooker.
(Random House of Canada Limited/Canadian Press)
We decided to test the machine on a weekend when we'd be home just in case something went wrong. For the same reason, we chose inexpensive ingredients and settled on a chickpea stew with tomatoes and zucchini – a variation of something we've made and enjoyed several times the conventional way. The results were passable, but not impressive. I'd been warned that slow cookers can "cook out" the flavours in a dish, and I think that's what happened here.
Undeterred, we hauled out the machine again when we had some chicken legs approaching their best-before date. I'd borrowed some slow cooker cookbooks from the library, but was dismayed by how many recipes called for canned soup or demanded lots of prep. So I plugged "slow cooker" into the recipe search at the Everyday Food website. I've always liked the magazine for its straightforward and usually fast approach that doesn't use many prefab shortcuts from the supermarket.
Bingo: spiced chicken stew with carrots. It took five minutes to peel and slice the carrots the night before, and I added a Japanese eggplant that was languishing in the crisper. Five more minutes in the morning to toss together the rest of the ingredients and it was ready to cook on low all day long.
When I got home, all I had to do was toast some almonds, add raisins to the pot and make couscous using some of the aromatic liquid that had collected in the cooker. The chicken was falling off the bone and the carrots were tender but not mushy. Success!
Do you have any slow cooker secrets to share?
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From trends and culture to politics and nutrition, Food Bytes serves up tasty tidbits about food and the issues surrounding it that flavour our everyday lives.
About the writers
Amber Hildebrandt writes for CBCNews.ca in Toronto. Growing up on a farm in Manitoba, she acquired an insatiable appetite, but it was during a stint in Japan that she developed her discerning tastebuds and "foodie" ways.
Andrea Chiu is an associate producer at CBC Radio Digital. Though she loves to eat, cook and discuss food, don't ask her to bake. It never turns out well. She tweets as @TOfoodie on Twitter and organizes food and wine events in Toronto called FoodieMeet.
Tara Kimura is the consumer life reporter for CBCNews.ca, covering a wide range of issues that range from rising food costs and the growing organic movement, to new trends in the marketplace.
Andree Lau is a CBC web reporter in Calgary. Her journalism career includes seven years as a CBC-TV reporter. Her own blog called "are you gonna eat that?" chronicles her eating adventures (including sampling snake and camel hoof tendon).
Jessica Wong is a CBCNews.ca writer who loves to eat and cook, as well as discuss, read and watch programming about food, sometimes all at once.
Kevin Yarr, CBCNews.ca's writer in Prince Edward Island, wrote about food and beer for national and regional magazines before joining the CBC. He acquired a desire for new tastes on his first trip to Europe, and an appreciation of eating locally and in season when he finally settled down on P.E.I.
Elizabeth Bridge is a writer with the CBC Digital Archives in Toronto. She first ventured into the kitchen as a child to indulge a sweet tooth by baking cookies and making fudge. A student budget compelled her to be a vegetarian (for a while) and instilled in her an ongoing curiosity about food and cooking.
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