Q&A: Slow Cooker
Hey Marc, I have a cooking question for you about Crock Pots:Whenever I want to make something other than chulent in the Crock Pot, i’m never sure how to do it, since most Crock Pot recipes tell you to cook stuff for 8 hours on low at the most… What are you supposed to do for Shabbat? Does it matter if it cooks for way longer than 8 hrs?Also, how come anything I ever try to make in the Crock Pot other than chulent just ends up tasting like chulent? No matter what spices or sauces… it all tastes like chulent.
Longer Isn’t Necessarily Better
Recipes that call for a set amount of time in the slow cooker are mostly based on the cut of meat and the weight of the cut. If a recipe calls for a leaner cut of meat, overcooking it may actually dry it out. To counteract this, either add more mass to the slow cooker so it lengthens the amount of cooking time needed, or add a source of fat to keep the meat from drying out. Sausage (what they call kabob here) adds fat and boosts flavor.
The Secret is In The Sauce… and the Seasonings
With slow cooking methods, you usually get more out of it than what you put into it. Water is plentiful, cheap, and doesn’t do anything to add to the flavor of a dish. Stock, while uncommon in home kitchens, is a better alternative, since it lends its own flavor to the dish. Wine is a good choice, but can get pricey for a “peasant” dish. The spices and other seasonings found in stews reflect their regional availability. My advice is to use fewer spices more liberally rather than creating a muddy flavor with too many contrasting flavors.
Chulent vs. The World
A basic stew consists of a sometimes meat, sometimes vegetables, sometimes grain and usually liquid. Lamb and potatoes make it an Irish stew. Lentils and curry make it Indian. There is cassoulet (Alsatian), wot (Ethiopian), chili (Texas), poyke (Russian), and so on. Most cultures have this one-pot dish. Jewish Ashkenazi chulent typically has beans, barley, meat, and potatoes. Additions include onions, eggs, carrots, hot dogs, and chick peas, and this list is by no means exhaustive. Liquids and flavors include chicken soup, water, beer, ketchup, Worcestershire Sauce and barbecue sauce, again, not an extensive list. Sephardic chamin will tend to have more familiar flavors and ingredients from their respective countries of origin. Basic spices include salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Sephardic flavors would include cumin, cinnamon and hot pepper, to name a few.