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Friday, November 4, 2011

Slow-Cooker Success

I am a huge fan of the slow-cooker – dump in a pile of ingredients the night before, remove it from the refrigerator in the morning, set the cooker on low for 10 hours and when you get home from work, not only does the house smell delightful, but you have a delicious, wonderful and often nutritious meal waiting. 

This was not always the case.  For years I thought that the only thing that could come out of a slow-cooker was a grayish-looking, meat-like substance which once resembled chicken or beef – Forgive me, Mom.  She cannot be blamed for the shortcomings of her early slow-cooker meals.  The slow-cooker, or Crock-Pot® as many of us know it, was introduced to America in the early 1970’s.  It was a gift from the heavens to those working and single mothers who came home tired from working all day only then to have to cook a meal for their eagerly awaiting children.  When it was introduced, however, I don’t think sufficient re-education was provided.  Slow cookers retain much of the moisture which is present in the item being cooked; it is rarely necessary to add additional water or broth.  This was contrary to how many generations had been taught to cook.

Much of my cooking instruction came from my mother, including how to use my Crock-Pot®.  I don’t remember exactly when I was taught or read that additional liquid didn’t have to be added to my culinary creation in order for it not to burn; but today, unless I am making beans, soup or chili, I rarely add any additional liquid.  The meat simmers in its own juices rendering even the toughest cut of chuck into a delectable slow roasted delight.

I need to thank Jenna over at Cold Antler Farm for reminding me that I can use my Crock-Pot® to slow cook my tough old laying hens.  For several years I have been boiling them in order to de-rubberize the meat so that it could be used in a casserole or chicken and biscuits.  Recently Jenna posted about slow roasting her old hens, de-boning the meat and using it in a pot-pie.  The light bulb went on and I thought to myself, especially since it is fall and we are culling our non-layers to make room in the coop for winter, duh – I could be doing that too.

Two days later, out came the slow-cooker and in went one of the old frozen hens marked for stewing.  That afternoon the de-boned meat went into a chicken, cheddar and rice casserole.  Dinner was met with rave reviews and – “Wow, you can actually chew the chicken this time!”

Thanks again, Jenna!

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