How i learned to stop worrying and love the slow cooker – the boston globe

Then, about eight years ago, the crock pot resurfaced. Homemade pasta sauce canned tomatoes To be fair, the recipes, like the crock pot itself, had evolved. Tomato pasta sauce with cream Instead of gloppy casseroles cooked in mustard-hued vessels painted with wheat patterns, we now had lamb shanks with white beans and seafood stews, prepared in gleaming, high-tech stainless-steel machines.

It made no difference to me. How to make homemade pasta sauce from scratch Crock pots, I believed, were best left in the annals of American kitsch, along with bell-bottoms, shag carpet, and other bad ideas of the ’70s. Homemade easy pasta sauce I didn’t subscribe to the notion that throwing everything from the fridge into a pot and letting it cook all day would yield something delicious. Homemade pasta sauce crock pot After attending Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, the alma mater of Julia Child, I emerged wedded to the ideal of true gastronomy, to meticulousness above all else, and to the belief that there are no shortcuts in making excellent food. Homemade pasta sauce recipe In other words, I was a food snob. White sauce recipe for pasta and chicken I’d be sticking to fastidious “real” cooking, thanks very much.

And yet. Tomato sauce recipe for pasta easy Friends sang the slow cooker’s praises — especially friends with kids to feed. Homemade pasta sauce in crockpot They told tales of magical dinners ready and waiting when everyone came home from work and school. Homemade pasta sauce for lasagna Then, two years ago, something happened. Homemade pasta and sauce Fall happened, to be exact. Homemade pasta sauce food network I had fallen in love with a man who, like me, had two children. Homemade spaghetti sauce from scratch food network And so my family expanded. Homemade tomato sauce for pasta And with September came an increasingly complex schedule, with more after-school activities, and weekends packed with sports practices and music lessons, and double the number of doctor appointments and play dates and God knows what else. Homemade pasta sauce using fresh tomatoes It was a blessing, and it was exhausting. Tomato pasta sauce jamie oliver And it certainly wasn’t conducive to cooking.

The first device I tried was a 20-plus-year-old Rival Crock-Pot 3100/2 — a relic from my fiance’s basement. Easy homemade sauce for pasta I unknotted its cord, cleaned it, and prepared to make an old standby that seemed a foolproof entry into slow cooking: split pea soup with ham and sage. Best homemade spaghetti sauce using fresh tomatoes The device was avocado green, covered with illustrations of various foods, just in case I forgot what the thing’s intended use was. Homemade tomato pasta sauce using fresh tomatoes The ceramic pot inside wasn’t removable. Homemade meat pasta sauce There was no “warm” setting, just “high” and “low,” and no timer. Make homemade pasta sauce The soup turned out fine, but it was time to trade up.

And thus the Cuisinart Programmable Slow Cooker PSC-650 entered our lives, after hours spent reading consumer reviews, reports, and blogs and comparing prices. Tomato pasta sauce brands “Does it talk?” my 9-year-old daughter, Cleo, asked when I plunked the shiny steel cuboid on the counter. Homemade pasta and sauce recipe “It reminds me of C-3PO.”

Actually, it looked more like a sideways fridge; holding 6½ quarts, it took up solid real estate on the counter. Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe no meat But oh, the bells and whistles: a snazzy digital timer, an automatic warm setting, a removable ceramic insert and glass lid (the latter is key to keeping an eye on your food without disturbing it) that are both dishwasher-safe. Easy homemade tomato pasta sauce recipe This wasn’t C-3PO; this was the Starship Enterprise.

We put it to the test the next day — a school day — with a tagine of chicken, chickpeas, and apricots. Easy homemade spaghetti sauce with meat It finished cooking at 4 p.m. Homemade white sauce for pasta and automatically reset to “warm,” so the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender without being even a smidge overcooked. Homemade pasta sauce slow cooker Everyone went back for seconds. Sauce for pasta noodles And we had time to really talk to one another. Homemade pasta sauce quick I was a convert.

Since that fateful fall two years ago, I’ve logged countless hours experimenting with ingredients, temperatures, and methods (see below). Homemade spaghetti sauce from whole tomatoes To be sure, the slow cooker is a godsend for family dinners during the school year, but I’ve also had unequivocal success using it for weekend dinner parties with adults. Homemade tomato sauce for pasta recipe One big hit: a cassoulet with an addictively fragrant broth and garlicky toasts for dunking. Tomato pasta sauce recipe nz It was inspired by the cassoulet served at my old haunt in Paris, the enchanting bistro Au Trou Gascon.

There are several myths about slow cookers that will lead you down the path to terrible dinners. Homemade pasta sauce without tomatoes No, you can’t just throw everything in at once and hope for the best. Homemade pasta sauce from garden tomatoes And no, you don’t just turn it on in the morning and expect to come home to anything remotely edible. Homemade pasta sauce recipe with fresh tomatoes The slow cooker is easy and convenient, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything. Homemade pasta sauce with tomato sauce Here are a few guidelines to help get your slow-cooker game into high gear.

1. Tomato pasta sauce recipe italian Timing: No matter what you hear, foods can be overcooked in a slow cooker. Homemade pasta sauce for baby So rather than leaving something cooking all day (i.e., 10 hours or more at a time), play it safe by doing all the prep work and setting it to cook the night before, while you sleep. Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe with garden tomatoes In the morning, remove the inner pot from the heating element to cool, refrigerate it before leaving the house, then when you get home that night take it out and cook for one more hour. Homemade pasta sauce with tomato paste Some meats (such as beef ribs and round) can only cook for so long before they lose flavor and tenderness; save those for weekend cooking when you’re around to intermittently check their progress. Quick homemade pasta sauce recipe And if you’re not eating the dish that night, you can refrigerate it and cook it an additional 20 minutes later in the week, just before serving.

2. Homemade spaghetti sauce recipe from scratch Searing: Opinions vary on whether searing meat before slow-cooking makes any difference. Homemade pasta sauce nz I find it ultimately yields a much deeper flavor. Best homemade spaghetti sauce recipe from scratch I use a pan to quickly brown the meat on all sides, add it to the cooker, deglaze the pan with about ¼ cup of beef stock, then add that, along with all the extra flavor it contains, to the cooker. Easy homemade cheese sauce for pasta Most modern slow-cooker models have a dishwasher-safe insert you can use to brown and sauté ingredients that get messy on the stovetop, such as bacon or ground meat. Homemade pasta sauce tomato But larger pieces of meat still require a separate pan.

3. Recipe for homemade tomato pasta sauce Trimming and skimming: A certain amount of fat enhances the flavor of a stew or roast, but too much can turn your sauce into an oil slick. Sauce for pasta and salmon Trimming meats (poultry included) of any fat visibly lining the edges helps enormously in controlling this. Sauce recipe for shrimp pasta And just as key: skimming any fat that rises to the top about a half-hour before the cooking is finished.

4. White sauce recipe for pasta with cheese Prepping: In the slow cooker, as with any method, even cooking depends on even cutting. Easy homemade spaghetti sauce recipe with canned tomatoes So do your best to chop vegetables and meat into pieces that are roughly the same size — that way some won’t be fork tender while others evoke shoe leather.

As with almost any dish that is cooked this long, the rich and melded flavors can benefit from a jolt of bright, contrasting, uncooked flavor added just before serving. Homemade pasta sauce recipe without tomatoes Lemon wedges (fresh or preserved) are a great addition to tagine; fresh chopped basil or cilantro sharpens up a roast beef; with cassoulet, fresh thyme (or, better yet, daubs of thyme, olive oil, and garlic run quickly through a blender) lends new dimension and complexity to your finished masterpiece.