vrai-lean-uh

Cooking, eating, making sweeping pronouncements

Posts tagged slow cooker

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In Which I Become Even More Tiresome (Slow Cookers and Baked Beans, Again)

I’m worried that half of my recent posts have involved slow cookers or baked beans, but I don’t want to count in case it’s more than half.

I remember the days pre-slow cooker when I would come across slow cooker features in magazines or on blogs and find it so tiresome. And yet, here we are!

I made a second attempt at the baked beans this week. Here’s the deal: you have to cook the beans first because they won’t soften further (apparently) once you add the sugar. Last time I cooked the beans on the stovetop, but the whole point of the slow cooker is that you don’t have to babysit something on the stove, which is defeated if a recipe starts with you babysitting beans on the stove for an hour or two.

So I bought a little more than two pounds of yellow eye beans from Whole Foods (in their bulk section, they have local organic yellow eye beans for $2.50 a pound).

Beans in the Slow Cooker

1. I soaked all the beans overnight, then drained the soaking liquid and dumped the beans into the slow cooker with water to cover. This step is optional. Some believe that it makes beans easier to digest, some think it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t really know how much of a difference it all makes, but I didn’t want to risk it. You can also cover the beans with an inch or two of cold water, bring to boil, boil for a minute, then cover and turn off the heat and let them sit for at least an hour.

2. As per these directions on thekitchn.com, I set the slow cooker on 8 hours (so, low heat) with plans to check them after 4 hours and then every half hour thereafter. I checked them at 4 hours, and they were not done. And then I forgot about them and went to an appointment and came back two or two and a half hours later and then were kind of overdone, but okay. Mushier than I would ideally want, but not a total loss. It’s good to leave room for improvement in your cooking.

3. I took out half the beans and portioned them into ziplock backs in approximately 14-ounce increments. I added cooking liquid to the bags (to minimize freezer burn) and then froze them flat (refrigerated until cold, then froze). I’ll use those beans in recipes that call for a can of beans (which is usually 14 ounces). I thaw them by submerging the bag in water.

4. I drained the rest of the beans and proceeded with the baked beans recipe.

New England Baked Beans

  • 1 lb dried beans, cooked until soft (the original recipe calls for California pea beans, I used yellow eye beans)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 small whole onions, gashed through center (when was the last time you saw a recipe that involved the word “gashed”?)
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/3 - 1/2 pound salt pork, cut up into 1” pieces (my local Whole Foods carries Niman Ranch salt pork)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • (the original recipe also calls for several 1” squares of fat salt, which my mum deduced was an error, just duplicating the salt pork, thus solving the mystery of the “fat salt”)
  • water to cover beans (edit: if you’re making this in the slow cooker, you should probably use half as much water)

Combine everything in the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

Filed under baked beans slow cooker franks and beans for dinner! making healthy foods unhealthy!

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Success! Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

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Thus far I’ve made baked beans; lamb, apricot, and olive tagine; spiced chicken stew with carrots; and this chicken curry recipe in our new slow cooker. I wouldn’t say any of those have been failures (far from it), but the chicken curry is definitely the most successful:

  • The lamb dish was very good, but the lamb wasn’t as tender as I’d want (which I think is user error and not a problem with the recipe). Also I think it upset my stomach a bit, which, again, is not the fault of the recipe.
  • The baked beans weren’t as easy as I wanted them to be (you have to cook the beans first, which I imagine you could do in the slow cooker, but I didn’t).
  • The spiced chicken and carrots were good, but I wanted them to be slightly more spiced.

The chicken curry, though, was amazing. And super easy.

See that picture above? That is more or less the prep involved, and I did that, again, with my beast of a kid strapped to me.*

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Step 1, pre-cooking.

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

From marthastewart.com, my notes in italics.

  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (I trimmed them in the most half-assed way possible)
  • 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 16 thin slices peeled fresh ginger (about 1 ounce) (Seriously? And yet, I broke out my digital scale, so I guess I can’t really judge. It took more than 16 slices for me to get to an ounce, by the way.)
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder, preferably Madras
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 packages frozen green peas (10 ounces each) (Except if you use the bags at the grocery, which are 16 ounces.)
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (I used one can, which is about a cup and a half)
  • 1/2 cup toasted cashews (optional, for serving) (I opted out, since I didn’t have toasted cashews at home)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (optional, for serving) (I also opted out of the cilantro, since it basically just rots in my fridge)
  1. In a 5-quart slow cooker, toss chicken, onion, garlic, ginger, curry powder, coriander, and cumin to coat. Season with 2 teaspoons salt. Cover, cook on high setting until chicken is fork-tender, about 4 hours (do not uncover while cooking).
  2. Stir in coconut milk and peas; cover, cook until peas are heated through, about 20 minutes.
  3. Transfer chicken to a large bowl; shred with fork. Return to pot; toss with sauce.
  4. To serve, garnish with 1/2 cup toasted cashews and 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.

Photo of the completed dish from marthastewart.com. It did not look so lovely when I made it.

* Somehow we’ve made a baby that is freakishly large. The checkout clerk at Target gave me a tiny bit of side-eye when I said he was only seven weeks old.

Filed under chicken curry slow cooker dinner