Kady Guyton: Savor the summer with slow cooking
The crock pot was a kitchen standard when I was growing up. (Child of the 80s here.) My mom would load it up with meat and vegetables around noon and by 5 p.m. my brother and I would be lurking around the kitchen waiting until the stroke of 6 p.m. when dinner would finally hit the table. (I’m also a child of the rural Midwest.)
A college roommate abandoned her crock pot when she moved out and I happily adopted it. It was a great way to make cheaper cuts of meat tender on the poor college student budget. Plus, I was the only student on my block who actually came home from class to a hot dinner I had made myself.
Since then, my crock pot has been hidden in a cabinet most of the time. I still love the meals it produces, but I have a hard time planning far enough ahead to get everything together and plugged in so we can eat at a reasonable hour.
This weekend I was wandering around Costco looking for something else and ended up in the crock pot/slow cooker aisle. After spending a happy few minutes petting the chrome trim and reading the features, I got inspired to dig up some of my favorite crock pot recipes.
Despite being a great appliance for winter meals, the crock pot is very underrated for summer cooking. It allows you to produce a hot meal without turning on the oven or sweating over a grill. Mine isn’t quite big enough to hold a whole chicken – which is why a new crock pot is on my Christmas list – but it does produce a bang-up risotto and lovely caramelized onions.
My favorite thing about the risotto recipe is the lack of stirring. Risotto is a wonderful Italian rice dish that unfortunately requires a lot of minding – which is great if a crowd of people are in your kitchen wanting to help. Otherwise, it just ties the cook to the stove. This is also a good way to eat up the late summer vegetables in the farmer’s market right now.
The caramelized onions take about 12 hours, make your house smell amazing and freeze beautifully. Use the broth to flavor sauces – or as a finish to the risotto. The onions can be diced fine and added to meat loaf or hamburgers, sauteed with red wine as quick sauce for steak or added to any other dish that needs a little richness.
Chef Kady Guyton recently graduated cum laude from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also welcomes readers questions and thoughts.
Crock Pot Risotto Primavera
Basic risotto recipe courtesy of “Slow Cooker Cooking” by Lora Brody
1/4 cup olive oil
2 shallots or one small yellow onion – peeled and minced
1 1/4 cups Arborio rice – uncooked
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 to 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese — preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
Heat the oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat and sauté the shallots until they have softened. Scrape them into the slow cooker.
Toss the rice in the insert to coat it with the oil. Stir in the wine, broth and salt. Cover and cook on HIGH for about 2 hours or until all the liquid is absorbed. Just before serving, stir in the cheese.
Prepare risotto as above. In the last half hour to 45 minutes of cooking time, add 1 cup chopped raw carrots, 1 cup sliced zucchini and a half cup frozen green peas. Also stir in one tablespoon of butter.
Caramelized Onions courtesy of “Slow Cooker Cooking” by Lora Brody
3 pounds Vidalia, Maui or other sweet onions (4 to 5 onions, 3 to 4 inches in diameter), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick to 1/4-inch-thick slices
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
Place the onions and butter in the insert of the slow cooker, cover, and cook on LOW for 12 to 14 hours, until the onions are deep brown and very soft. It’s almost impossible to overcook these; make sure to let the onions cook until they are mahogany colored.
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