Thursday, January 15, 2009
Now I'm a crockpotter too!
Well, not exactly, because my slow-cooker is a Breville, not a Crockpot brand name.
After hearing from my friends how useful and time-saving a slow-cooker (SC) is, I decided after some consideration to go out and buy one. Around these parts, SC aren't very popular. If you want to slow-cook something (mijoter), you use a cocotte, that is, a Le Creuset. But with globalization and all that, it is possible to buy one, whether online or in town. (For people in Luxembourg, there is one in Auchan, Darty will order one for you, but the very helpful and friendly people at the Singer shop on Avenue Monterey have 3 different models to choose from, like, now.)
I chose my Breville because it wasn't absolutely huge (4.3 liters). It's kind of pretty too, in an understated way. OK, not pretty, but not a disgrace to the kitchen either.
Anyway, it has three settings, low for keeping warm, medium and high. It isn't automatic but since I hardly ever leave the house for long stretches of time, it doesn't matter much.
For inspiration, I browse the very instructive Crockpot Lady's blog, and the web in general.
But so far, I must say I have only made my own recipes, and they turned out fine. I made a leek, chicken and barley combo as soon as I cracked open the SC. Later, I made my beef stew with chorizo, and it was fantastically tender, with lots of flavour. Today, I made a chicken tagine, perhaps the mother of all tagines, chicken with preserved lemon and olives. It was delicious.
I realize now, as I've read elsewhere, that cooking everything slowly and with the lid on improves both the flavour and the texture of the meat. It becomes very tender and the flavours deepen, as if you'd left the stew overnight to reheat on the next day, but without having to wait that long. Also, it's a real bonus to be able to use those five minutes in the day when no one truly needs your attention to assemble the meal in the pot, then leave the SC to work its magic while you are otherwise engaged.
If you don't brown the meat beforehand, the food might look a bit bland, but if you're as tired/lazy as I am, it's the easiest option (you might even add the meat still frozen but it prolongs the cooking time). With this tagine, it doesn't show because of the spices.
500g fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 red onion, chopped
1 fat garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or use freshly grated)
1 tsp paprika (smoked or not)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup water
1 cup pitted green olives
2 tiny preserved lemons, skin only, chopped
optional : fresh coriander and parsley
Cut the chicken thighs in three, removing any excess fat. Put them in the pot with the spices, onions and garlic and mix everything with your hands. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Pour the water, cover with the lid and set on medium. Cook for 4-6 hours. In the meantime, pour some hot water over the olives and lemon skin, leave for a minute then drain. An hour before you want to eat, add those to the dish and mix well. Serve with the freshly chopped herbs over couscous.
Notes: I use beldi preserved lemons, they're tiny with super fine skin but quite pungent. If you have homemade preserved lemons, use the skin of half a normal-sized one.
I didn't have any coriander because while the coriander in its pot was staring at me from a rack in the shop that morning, I was trying to eavesdrop on two supermarket employees gossiping and so it didn't strike me that I could have a use for it...
If you have any slow-cooker tips or recipes to share, please leave a comment!