A slow cooker, also known as a crock-pot (after a trademark owned by Sunbeam Products but sometimes used generically in the English-speaking world), is a countertop electrical cooking appliance used to simmer at a lower temperature than other cooking methods, such as baking, boiling, and frying.
As a result of the long, low-temperature cooking, slow cookers help tenderize less-expensive cuts of meat. A slow cooker brings out the flavor in foods. A wide variety of foods can be cooked in a slow cooker, including one-pot meals, soups, stews, and casseroles. A slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven.
I read in Viana LaPlace’s cookbook Unplugged Kitchen: A Return to the Simple, Authentic Joys of Cooking, that she cleaned out her fridge, including cheese rinds and crusts of bread, and made yummy soup with the week’s leftovers. My grandmother would save every morsel of leftover meals in big to teeny tiny Tupperware containers and create her next meal with those ingredients in mind.
Not sure I can go to these great lengths, but I intend to waste less food. The crockpot is my solution. Here is this week’s fridge clear-out plus a few odds and ends and a hope and a prayer I haven’t tossed in anything that might “kill” us!
Found ingredients from fridge, freezer, garden, cupboard:
- 2 beef ribs from dinner at Lil Abner’s restaurant, Tucson, AZ
- 1 organic rotisserie chicken carcass from Whole Foods, skin removed
- 2 bottles of Belgian white ale
- 2 frozen whole tomatoes (from this summer–stored whole in Ziploc)
- About 2 handfuls of organic baby carrots
- 1/3 of a yellow onion, chopped
- 1/3 sad red and wrinkled pepper
- 6 small cloves of garlic
- 2 bits of tired dry bay leaves
- Handful of fresh mint cut from Trader Joe’s herb garden growing outside—I find mint helps everything taste fresh
- Celtic sea salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Britta water to fill, two fingers from the top of the crockpot
- Cook on high for one hour, then lower to low setting—I find this intensifies the flavor
- Pick any meat off bones, discard bones and toss meat back into the pot.
- (If I have leftover rice, grains, pasta, beans, I add now. If at any point broth seems too thin or watery, I toss in an organic bouillon cube.)
My Crock-Pot Rules:
- I never use a recipe, and if I do follow one loosely, I’ll get creative with it.
- Make sure to fill the crockpot with liquid and ingredients approx. 2 fingers from the top (no more or it will overflow once heated) and check to make sure you have enough liquid!
- Experiment with seasonings: I find that the slow cooking “absorbs” the flavors so I need to add more—salt especially. Easy on the pepper though! For some reason, black pepper intensifies.
- Wilted and tired veggies, and cheaper cuts of meat do well in the crockpot.
- When adding doggie bag leftovers or any leftovers, unless I want the flavorings, I usually wash the previous seasonings off and start “fresh.”
Jen Smith is a stylist, art director, and writer, who lives in NYC with her son Fisher.
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