Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Crock of Awesome

When I was a kid, a crockpot was always a fixture in our house. Thing was, it was firmly fixated in the storage area, somewhere near my box of rubber stamping supplies and the emergency candles. Mom would usually only pull it out for corned beef, although we might have lugged it full of soup or chilli to a 4H potluck or two. Mom used to make a beef stew on occasion, but I think she did it in a stockpot on the stove, which this appliance sadly sat in the back of the house collecting dust.

The last two houses I've lived in have had ample storage space, so my mom started insisting that I take a crockpot off her hands. It wasn't the one I grew up with, so I'm not sure where it came from, but mom wasn't using it and was sure I would. I protested, saying I didn't like stews, and wasn't into making any meals that required a lot of prep work. Mom ignored my protests and showed up at my house with the thing anyway. I sighed and put it in the garage, where it once again sat gathering dust in the company of my camping supplies and my toolbox.

But then I went paleo, and in my readings and research I came across many recipes that called for a "slow-cooker." Then my meat CSA sent me a bunch of cuts of meat that basically required slow cooking, such as mutton and beef-cheeks, so I started thinking about it more. It took awhile, but it eventually started to dawn on me that I HAD a slowcooker, languishing in the garage. Finally, the CSA sent me a pound of pork specifically labelled "stew meat." So I decided that enough was enough, it was time to give it a go.

I found a recipe at Everyday Paleo I was excited to try : Pork Loin and Butternut Squash Stew . I was skeptical that I could just throw all the things into the pot, let it sit, and out would come delicious stew, so I double checked with people on the Mark's Daily Apple forums . They not only denied my suspicions, but barraged me with other delicious-sounding recipes that made me even more excited to try it out. One useful source provided a bit more information on the smaller tricks and techniques for using a crockpot. Some key things I took away from it:

1. Browning the meat before putting it in helps seal in the meat's natural juices and provides better flavor.
2. Softer vegetables, such as greens, and dairy should be added toward the end of cooking.
3. Put longer-cooking items (such as meat) at the bottom, and veggies toward the top.

So, long story short, I did as was instructed (although I had to look up how to how to cube a butternut squash and how to clean and prepare leeks) and set the crockpot to start cooking on low right before I left for work. I thought about my stew all day and ran home to find the house full of delicious, warm spicy smells.

The result? Well the pork came through a little dry. Possibly because I left the chunks too big so the liquids of the rest of the stew didn't simmer through. But besides that, it was awesome. I ate two, maybe three small bowls last night and had the rest for lunch leftovers today. The leftovers were even better, since the pork meat shredded a bit and soaked up the juices more, and the flavors all settled in together overnight.

Overall, I would say that this first crock-adventure was a success. I look forward to next trying it out just for slow cooking tough cuts of meat, like aforementioned beef cheeks, rather than full stews.

1 comment:

  1. I also have a crockpot in the back of my pantry. I have seen the recipes and even collected a few that require it, but have yet to try them. Your success and confidence inspires me :)