Now that I come to think of it, I’ve no idea where I came up with the idea of putting a slow cooker on our wedding gift registry. As far as I remember, no one I know know owns one, I never grew up with one and I can’t recall eating a memorable meal that I knew came from one. But it must have been that enticing idea of plonking all ingredients into the device, switching it on and coming home to a home-cooked meal hours later.
So thanks to Mary, Amy, Emily and Molly, we’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of cooler weather to give our slow cooker a whirl. And it’s here. So this weekend, we decided it was time for the debut. it was also a nice coincidence that not one, or two, but three sets of friends were in town from the UK and South Africa. What could be more congenial than gathering together to enjoy the spoils of what amounts to a high-tech pootjie?
There was the matter that our selected recipe, for Osso Bucco, wasn’t very clear about the cooking in the slow cooker part. Although the recipe came with the cooker, it kept referring to “cook as per the manufacturer’s instructions.” The problem was, the manufacturer didn’t provide any instructions on length of time, or what the difference between “high” and “low” settings were, or, for that matter, any guidance on how long anything took to cook.
The only thing we were certain of was that it took a long time — the recipes called fro anything from six to 12 hours, the cooker could go for 20 hours of cooking followed by six hours of “keep warm” and of course, we gathered the name was descriptive too, “slow cooker.”
That’s when you call mom. Jay’s mom to be precise. She helped calm down yours truly — who had visions of hungry guests staring at the slow cooker at midnight, awaiting the end of the 12-hour cooking cycle! Apparently, “hot” really is hot, and can cook things in three to six hours.
So, after braising the veal shanks and vegtable and popping in the other ingredients, we peered at the quiet surface of the contents in the slow cooker… one hour, no action… three hours…a bubble!… four hours…more bubbles and some delicious smells. Eight hours later bang on schedule, we were serving up a fabulous osso bucco accompanied by roasted vegetables and sauteed potatoes.
Thus the slow cooker has us sold. It’s obvious we need to learn a lot more about how exactly to use the thing — I think we’ll be looking around at some slow cooker recipe books that not only have good recipes, but a nice introductory section on how to work the device!
I also discovered I do know quite a few people who own slow cookers — they just weren’t sure how to use them either! It does seem to be the perfect kitchen appliance for busy professionals who treasure home-cooked meals, and we’re hoping to master it by the time our little stowaway comes out of hiding. After all, February is the perfect time for virtually hands-free coq au vin, oxtail and other slowly-stewed delights.
PS in my frantic web serach for slow cooking guidance, I came across this great post from LadyLunchALot, who says osso bucco is the answer to at least one of life’s big questions.