Take a crack at crockpot cookery

  • By Judyrae Kruse
  • Wednesday, November 4, 2009 12:01am
  • Life

The fact of the matter is, some Forum cooks are crack crockpotters. They’ve been taking advantage of this energy-saving, money-saving, time-saving technique for years now, all the while putting delicious meals on the dinner table.

For some reason or other, though, others of us are laggi

ng far behind, sadly slow on the slow-cooker front.

Tell you what — let’s wade right in there, get a grip on mastering this appliance once and for all, pull it off the shelf and put it on the countertop and make it earn its keep.

For starters, let’s run through what the folks at Kraft Foods call:

Slow cooker tips, tricks

Don’t fill it up. Your slow cooker should be one-half to two-thirds full. If it’s too full, it will take too long to start simmering. If it’s not full enough, you risk overcooking.

Keep it thrifty. This long, moist cooking method is ideal for inexpensive cuts of meat, since it provides plenty of time for tenderizing.

Leave it alone. Don’t lift the lid, unless you want to extend the cooking time by 20 minutes. To check the progress, spin the lid until the condensation falls off. If the recipe gives you reason to lift the lid, replace it quickly.

Customize it. If you want to thicken the juices or concentrate flavors, remove the lid and cook on high for the last 30 minutes.

Stick to the cooking time. Slow cookers work by simmering food at a low, even temperature, so adhere to the recipe.

Now for the payoff — turning that new know-how into this new how-to straight from the pages of “Joe Simmer’s All American Slow Cookin’ ’’ cookbook.

Italian-American pot roast

1 chuck roast, about 3 1/2 pounds (see note)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 rib celery, finely chopped

1/2 pound white or crimini mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 cup red wine

1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

1 can (28 ounces) whole plum tomatoes in puree

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

Preheat the broiler on high. Season the roast with salt and pepper, place it on a lightly greased baking pan and brown under the broiler for about 5 minutes on each side. Place the roast in the crockpot along with any juices that accumulated in the pan.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and lightly brown. Stir in the mushrooms and sage and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the contents to the crock along with the wine, tomato paste and tomatoes with puree.

Cover crockpot and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the meat is tender. Remove the roast to a serving platter. Skim any excess fat from the sauce, add the parsley and adjust the seasoning.

Serve slices of the roast alongside the spaghetti, with the sauce on top.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: This recipe can also be prepared with a rump or round roast instead of chuck. The rump or round slices more evenly, but the flavor is not quite as rich.

The next Forum will appear in Friday’s comics pages.

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