Tag Archives: crock pot

Slow-Cooker Red Beans and Rice

Loyal readers–all 3 of you–of this blog should know that I love my slow-cooker, crock pot, whatever you want to call it. Whether it’s making barbecue or mulling cider, it’s a nice and easy “no fuss” method of cooking that you can prepare well in advance and cook mostly unattended. It’s a bit like those old films of “Life in the Future” mixed with modern film techniques. I dump ingredients into the device in the morning, turn a dial, press a button and go to work. Jump-cut to 8 hours later when I come home, lift the lid and deliciousness ensues. Ah the convenience of technology!

Salt-soaking the kidney beans Admittedly most slow-cooker recipes aren’t so simple, but when America’s Test Kitchen came out with their Slow Cooker Revolution, I prodded them on Twitter to ask just how much pre-prep was required for their recipes. I was happy to hear that “most” of them don’t require a lot of work and once I got the book, it was nice to see many of the recipes marked as “Easy Prep.”

After finding their barbecue style chicken to be a huge improvement over my usual method, I was ready to give their Red Beans and Rice Stew a try. The dish is a household favorite, my other half naming it as one of his comfort foods. So I was definitely encouraged to see if I could skip the box mix and make it myself for a change. The ingredient list is simple enough for anyone with even a lightly stocked spice rack and a nearby grocery store. The only stumbling block is time. Slow-cooker recipes take a while–by virtue of the name, naturally–but this one needed 9-11 hours to cook on low and I always prefer to cook on low when I can. It also says 5-7 hours on high, but I prefer low. Also, they recommend salt-soaking the kidney beans overnight, though they also offer a method for quick soaking (as do most pre-bagged beans).

Since this was my first time making it, I didn’t want to let it cook overnight since some slow-cooker recipes need more attention than others. Believe me, now I know better! I did all the prep on the meat and veggies the night before, had everything staged and ready to go… for waking up at 6 the following morning to get things cooking. Pretty easy though, soften veggies, rinse beans, dump everything into the pot and back to sleep!

Red Beans and Rice Stew (serves 6)

Simmering the stew after adding all ingredients

  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 celery rib, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme (or 12 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 14 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus extra as needed
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pound dried red kidney beans (2 12 cups), picked over, salt-soaked, and rinsed
  • 1 pound andouille sausage. sliced 12 inch thick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped medium
  • 12 cup long-grain white rice
  • salt and pepper
  • red wine vinegar
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  1. Microwave onions, celery, garlic, oil, thyme, paprika, and cayenne in bowl, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir broth, water, beans, sausage, and bay leaves into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.
  3. Let stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. Discard bay leaves.
  4. Stir bell peppers and rice into stew, cover, and cook on high until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. (Adjust stew consistency with additional hot broth as needed.) Season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.

Aside from the overwhelming compulsion to lift the lid and stir it, this stew really doesn’t need a lot of babysitting. It’s also not very exciting to photograph, until you have a finished product.

Red Beans and Rice

I used Wild Boar Andouille sausage from Red Apron Butchery and it’s excellent though next time I think I might put an extra half-pound of sausage in the mix, or grill it separately to serve on top. I also bumped up the amount of rice to 34 cups and still didn’t feel like it was enough, so prepared another 12 cup (before cooking) rice separately and stirred it in. The Test Kitchen recipe is designed to make more of a stew, but I like my red beans and rice thicker. I’m always skeptical of adding dry rice to any meal, but giving it over 30 minutes to cook in was about the right time and it didn’t get too mushy. Next time I’ll try serving it over rice, but I admit that fast food and box mix versions have gotten me used to having it all mixed together.

The splash of red wine vinegar is definitely a must, but I usually skip garnishes so didn’t bother with the scallions. I might also replace the cayenne with chipotle in future as I like things spicy, but this dish makes me sweat when I eat it. Some might want that, but until I get the proper ingredients and glasses for hurricane cocktails at home, I need to take it easy! Once I figure out how to better hack the needed cook/prep time, I could see making this recipe a lot, especially in colder seasons.

I’m really impressed with Slow Cooker Revolution and am already planning my next slow cooker experiment. The lasagna recipe is tempting, but I think I’d like to try a dessert… or wings!

Dry Rubbed Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

It’s funny how things come full circle. Just over a year ago, I was starting to discover and connect with the DC foodie scene. My cooking posts were tossed in with the other things I wrote about in DC and if you’d mentioned a “food blog” to me, I would have laughed in your face. And well… here we are!

When I got my first crock pot, my inbox and IM windows were flooded with recipes to try and one that worked out well for me was a pulled meat style barbecue. It was ridiculously simple, put meat in the crock pot with a bottle of your chosen barbecue sauce and set on Low for six hours, shredding it at the seventh hour and simmering in the developed sauce. I shared the technique with a friend and ended up getting a mention as a “foodie friend” in her post on Pulled Pork. After looking back at that recipe, I decided to give it a try with a pork shoulder I recently picked up at the supermarket. Instead of a wet sauce, it uses a dry rub and relies on a bit of water and the pork’s fat to develop a sauce as it slowly cooks.

The dry-rub recipe is a “classic” from Cook’s Illustrated and the method is pure crock-pot with just a little bit of fiddling. You normally can leave things in the crock pot and walk away, but this requires some turning early on and obviously some shredding in the later hours:

  • one 6 to 8 lb. pork shoulder
  • 1/4 cup water (optional, depending on how much sauce you want to form)
  • spice rub
    • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
    • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
      (2 tsp if you like it spicy, I substituted chipotle pepper to trade heat for smokiness)
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
    • 4 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
    • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon white sugar
    • 2 tablespoons salt

  1. Mix together the spice rub in a large ziploc/oven bag, shaking it to combine the spices thoroughly.
  2. Add the pork shoulder and vigorously shake the bag until the pork is fully covered in the spice rub.
  3. Place the sealed bag in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours/overnight. The longer the pork is allowed to marinate, the stronger the flavor will be.

Crammed into the crock!

On cooking day, remove the pork shoulder from the bag and place it in the crock pot. Discard any leftover spice that didn’t “cling” to the meat.

  1. Add the 1/4 cup of water, if desired, and place the pot on low.
  2. Cover the pot with the lid and allow to cook for 1 hour.
  3. After an hour, turn the pork shoulder over and continue to cook for 1 more hour.
  4. Turn the pork shoulder over one more time and let it continue to cook for another 4 hours.
  5. Check to see if the pork is starting to tenderize. If it is, shred the pork using a fork (or tongs–or bear paws!) and stir the shredded meat around in the sauce created during cooking.
  6. Cook for another 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your crock pot and the desired flavor/texture.

Shredded and ready to serve

If your pork shoulder is closer to 8 pounds, you may need a longer cooking time and vice versa for smaller cuts of meat. Because of the fattiness of pork, it’s hard to mess this one up. Please note, this recipe makes a lot. It would be great made in advance of a picnic or party, but if you’re making this for just yourself, plan on a lot of leftovers!

To appease the BBQ purists out there, I admit that this isn’t barbecue. It was slow cooked using a steamed/simmering method, not slow-roasted over low heat on a grill/smoker. Some people like the charred bits that barbecue brings and if you feel that’s missing from this recipe, I advise that you remove the pork shoulder at about hour 5 or 6, place it on a baking or roasting pan and set it under the broiler for a few minutes per side to crisp up the edges before returning it to the crock pot for shredding. Just be careful moving the pork shoulder around at this stage as it’s quite ready to fall apart.

Even if it isn’t traditional barbecue, it will do for me in a pinch. Especially if I see that a planned cookout might be rained out, this wouldn’t be bad to have in the fridge as a backup dish. And while a sandwich is certainly the most satisfying serving method for the pork, I could also see it going over couscous or steamed rice, rolled up in a wrap with chopped veggies or even tossed with some cheese into an omelette for brunch. As I said, you’re going to have a lot of it, so if you and your guests aren’t feeling piggy–pun intended–when it’s first served up, plan ahead to freeze some or make some unique dishes with the leftovers. Enjoy!

Mulled/Spiced Apple Cider

I’m not much for holiday cooking and baking. I rarely host for any of the big holidays, and about the only thing I’ll bring to potlucks are non-holiday specific desserts. When a friend was throwing down for Thanksgiving and told us that we didn’t need to bring anything, I figured I could at least provide some libations. While wine is a default gift, I also sent ahead spices and ingredients to make mulled cider in the slow cooker. It’s a really simple recipe, but impressive mostly because of the seasonal charm and the fact that it will make your kitchen/apartment smell amazing while it simmers away.

mulled_cider_03

Continue reading Mulled/Spiced Apple Cider

Southern Lazy Sunday

Sweet Iced Tea and Chicken n' Dumplings

I can’t always be bothered to take photos of the entire meal from prep to finish, especially when it isn’t my recipe! Plus it’s a crock pot meal and believe me, there’s a good six to eight hours when they aren’t exciting in the least. Chris over at Ramblings of a Hopeless Khowaga posted this recipe for slow cooker chicken n’ dumplings that was passed along to him. Even though we aren’t feeling the bite of chilly fall/winter yet, I’m loving my crock pot meals and this one was too easy.

While I might pester him for more specific measurements, and I skipped the cornstarch completely as he didn’t mention it–it still made for an amazing dish. The vague spices ingredient is really a doorway for you to give it your own additional flavor. I tossed garlic cloves into mine before cooking and then some diced garlic in after the biscuit dough for both the sweet and the bite. This recipe would easily make enough for a week for one, a few nights for a couple and perhaps dinner and next-day lunches for more than that.

The iced tea was more an afterthought to show off some of the new glasses I bought at IKEA, but rest assured, it was made in the Southern way: brewed with flavor and loaded with sugar. (Or in this case artificial sweetener, but in iced drinks, you can’t tell.)