Monday, January 25, 2010

Slow Cooker Madness

Last week I decided to develop a friendlier kitchen relationship with my slow cooker. It sits proudly on the shelf, day after day, year after year, even though I choose other cooking vessels over it, time and time again. Oh yes, once in a while I will choose to leave a pot roast braising all day when I am not home, or let my spaghetti sauce with meat slowly simmer. Other than that, I have willingly snubbed the slow cooker. Last week I learned it has been in it's best spot all along. On the shelf.
First off I tried making Boston Baked Beans. I soaked the Northern white beans all night, then put them in the slow cooker the following morning,covering them with homemade chicken stock, and ingredients to make one of the tastiest Boston baked beans I have ever produced. However, my slow cooker has a mind of its own and did not stand up to the test. After 8 1/2 hours of slow cooking, the beans were not tender. Let me suffice that after leaving them to cook all that night, and all the next day to dinner time once again, those damn beans never got tender. They went into the garbage.
Yesterday I decided to try one more time, this time making soup. How hard could that be for my slow cooker to step up and hit a home run? I am the optimistic one. This was more successful than the beans, but truly, I could have made it in less time in a pot on the stove. Here is the recipe as I made it in the slow cooker. It was very tasty, and I will make it again. However next time I will leave the slow cooker sitting proudly on it's shelf where it truly belongs and choose a cooking vessel I can use on my stove. Trust I will be cooking up those Boston baked beans again very soon, and they too will be cooked the good old fashioned way.
Slow Cooker Potato Cheddar Soup
Peel and slice 4 large potatoes. I suggest you slice them very thin. Slow cookers are what they boast to be - slow cooking. Put them in the slow cooker pot and pour in 1 to 1 1/2 cups homemade chicken broth. You can use low-salt canned chicken broth or water. Cover and cook on high for about 2 to 3 hours until the potatoes are just tender. Cold be longer. Slow Cookers also are testy.
Transfer the potatoes and the cooking liquid to a blender container (may have to do this in batches) and toss in 1 large clove garlic. Blend to a smooth consistency. If you like chunk of potato in your soup, only put two-thirds of the potatoes into blender.
Put the potato puree back into the slow cooker and stir in at least 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used an extra aged sharp white which was good, but did not add the nice orangish color of a regular cheddar), another cup of broth, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives. Cover and cook on low for about 30 minutes or so, until the soup is well heated. add extra broth at this point if the soup is too thick-do it to your liking. Get the consistency you enjoy the most. If you left 1/3 of the potato slices break them up with a fork at this point. Season with a lot of pepper. Salt if you find it necessary, however I think the cheese is salty enough. Right before serving, stir in 1 cup of sour cream, heavy cream or half and half. Myself, I used nonfat sour cream. It added the creaminess to the texture, but did not add the rich flavor real sour cream, or cream would have done. Serve in individual bowls, and top as you like - bacon pieces, crumbled cheddar...load it up with more flavor.

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