Tag Archives: crockpot

Crock Pot Carmelized Onion Soup

2 Feb

Reason #8,571 to own a crock pot:

Okay I know this is waaaaay too close. I only took one photo and I was zoomed in waaaaay too much. But you get the idea. It was lovely.

Onion soup.

Not just any onion soup.  The most awesome, incredible onion soup ever.   And one of the easiest things you’ll ever make.

There are really only two ingredients you really need.  Onions and your crock pot.

Oh, this soup has a few more.  But you can make really beautiful carmelized onions just by throwing them in your crock pot and cooking them on low until they’re brown and soft and sweet.

Just cut them up.  Thin is best.  If you’ve got a mandoline slicer, this is the time to use it.  Just be sure to use a guard and a cutproof glove, please.  You don’t need to make a trip to Urgent Care.  Take it from my firsthand experience, it’s not a fun way to spend an evening.

Anyway, you want strips or rings.  Sorry, I don’t have any photos of any of this.  But use your imagination.  🙂

Pile them into the crock pot.  As tightly as you can.  In my large oval shaped pot I can fit about 5 onions’ worth.  It only takes an extra few minutes to cut the raw onions, but I highly recommend making as many carmelized onions at once as you can, because they freeze really well.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Push the onions down and make room for more.  When you can’t fit any more, add a sprinkling of salt.  I usually use just about a teaspoon for 5 onions.  It’s not really to salt them so much as it is to draw the water out of them, so you can skip this step if you want.  I also usually add a tablespoon of butter.  Not for any really good reason, except that I think that the butter compliments the velvety texture of the cooked onions.

Put the top on the crock pot and turn it on low.

Leave it for at least 6 hours.  Overnight is even better.

This last batch I left on low for about 18 hours.

It would take a lot for the onions – which are mostly water – to dry out.  So don’t be afraid of them burning unless you leave them all day and all night (I have done this once.  Not with onions.  With meat.  When I woke up in the morning it looked like a hockey puck.  Not the best way to start the day!).

When you turn off your crock pot, you should have beautiful deeply brown soft onions swimming in lovely onion broth.

Whatever you do, don’t throw this broth away.  It’s heavenly.

Unless you’re making the whole pot into onion soup, I suggest draining the onions and freezing the broth in individual ice cube trays.  That way you can add a little brothy onion goodness into other soups or rice dishes or just about anything you can think of.  You can use the onions themselves on top of pizza or in sandwiches.  They freeze remarkably well and are awesome to have around.

But you can take it one step further.

If you were, say, to take about 1 1/2 cups of the onion broth, 1/2 cup of the onions, and 1/2 cup of beef stock, and warm those through, and then to toast up some slices of baguette with provolone on the top, (slightly stale bread is even better than fresh in this instance) and put it all together, you’d have two bowls of this.

Sweet, oniony, velvety onion soup.  That tastes like onions instead of broth and salt.  That is satisfying and filling without being heavy.  That is just plain awesome.

Dear Crockpot:  You rock.

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Banoffee Pie, and Pies With Friends

5 Dec

My family and I traveled to Ireland in 2005, and the tiny town of Ennis, in Shannon, had the most incredible meal at an Italian – yes, Italian in Ireland – restaurant.  After the meal our host (my 5th grade teacher and my mom’s friend, Ms. Sutherlin) suggested we order Banoffee Pie.

Banoffee Pie (or Banoffi pie) was created in the late 1960s by Ian Dowding, a British chef.  I’ve linked to his website below,  but it seems everyone in Britain has their own variation on the dessert.  Whatever recipe you use, one thing is clear: it’s a mixture of bananas, toffee (or, as we’d say in San Diego, dulce de leche), and whipped cream flavored with a little coffee.  It sounds seriously weird but it works.  It’s creamy and sweet but surprisingly not cloying or heavy.  It’s INCREDIBLY easy to make.  And while it may not be the most beautiful pie in the contest, it’s darn tasty!

Today I had the occasion to try out a recipe for Banoffee pie.  You see, my friend Carrie has a tradition, for the last several years, of hosting a Pie-Off at her home.  Like a Bake Off, competitors’ creations are judged for taste, creativity, and looks, with awards handed out according to a very scientific voting system!  🙂  It’s kind of competitive, but mostly, it’s about friends getting together and sharing food.  We were invited this year for the first time, and I knew I had to bring it.  Hubby and I had actually each planned on making a pie, but ran completely out of time to do a ton of baking, so it was lucky that this recipe had very little baking time!  I’d never made this recipe before, and of course I made a tweak or two to the original, but it turned out quite nicely for a first attempt!

The only thing that gets tricky, time-wise, is making the toffee – it’s not like you can just whip it up in two minutes – but you can probably purchase a tin of ready-made dulce de leche and cut out the toffee making entirely if you’re in a real hurry.  Either way, prep is minimal, taste is awesome, and it’s a keeper of a recipe!

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I “won” 2nd in the Taste category, behind a nut-and-raisin pie passed down from another guest’s grandma, so I consider that a victory!

Banoffee Pie (adapted from Ian Dowding)

  • 1 pie crust.  I used a Pillsbury crust because my own luck with pastry making is terrible, but Chef Dowding has “the” recipe on his site.  Most of the recipes I’ve seen – and the first pie I ate – had crusts made from British digestive biscuits (which are like graham crackers without the brown sugar).  I’d actually intended to make mine from digestives too but didn’t have a chance to get to a store that carries them.  You can find them at Cost Plus and subsitute them in your favorite graham cracker crust recipe.
  • 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 3-4 large ripe (not overripe!) bananas.  They should have almost no brown spots, so that they don’t look brown and gross when you cut into the pie.
  • 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp instant coffee (I used Starbucks VIA Columbian, and it lent the perfect hint of coffee without being overpowering or bitter, but you can use whatever you have or can find inexpensively, as long as it’s not flavored)

The day before: This is the EASIEST way to make the toffee; there are several very effective ones but this is a no-brainer for me: Remove the label from the can of condensed milk.  Place it in the bottom of a crock pot and fill the crock pot with enough water to cover the can entirely, with a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water above the top of the can.  Turn the crockpot on low and walk away.  Let the crockpot cook for 6-8 hours and then turn it off and leave it for another 3+ hours or until cool to the touch.  You want to make sure that the can isn’t hot enough to explode when it hits cool air, so just leave it until you’re sure.

Assembly of the pie: Bake and cool your crust completely.  Open the can of toffee and smooth it over the bottom of the crust.

Crust, meet toffee.

I told you this was easy!

Now place your bananas in a single layer on the toffee.  Sort of push them in so the carmely goodness oozes around them.  You will get messy, and the top of the bananas won’t look too pretty.  Oh well.

Sort of like a bananas foster pie, minus the pyrotechnics

I should note here that the original recipe called for 5-6 bananas.  I don’t know if they just have smaller bananas in the UK, or if the chef squashed them together differently or had multiple layers of fruit, but I only really needed 3.  As you can see, it’s not an exact science.

With a stand or hand mixer, whip together the cream, powdered sugar, coffee crystals, and vanilla until the cream is thick.  I make whipped cream on a relatively regular basis (several times a year) so I know the texture I like is somewhere not quite to the stiff peaks stage.  But if you don’t, you’ll need to experiment.  Just be careful not to whip too much, or you’ll get sweetened curds and whey.  Which might be a treat for Miss Muffett but won’t be very tasty on your pie.  Smooth your cream onto your bananas and make the top as pretty as you can.

The finished product

And just because, here’s a photo of the Pie-Off table.  All NINE pies (and no repeats!).  Mmmmm…  That was some good eating!

Clockwise, from top left: Raspberry Velvet Tart, No-Bake Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Pie, Coconut Cream Pie, Lemon Cream Pie, Chocolate Orange Mousse Pie, Apple Pie, Banoffee Pie, French Nut Pie, Bourbon Carmel Truffle Tart!

I think the best part of tonight – I mean, aside from the utter decadent deliciousness – was the company.  We’d never met any of the other guests, and most of them were strangers to each other too.  But when you get together a good group of people, eating and talking and being just slightly competitive, it works.  At least with good hosts!  Thanks Carrie for the invite – can’t wait for next year!

Crockpot Curry: FAIL!

17 Jun

So last week I posted about how we were planning to do a meal in the crockpot every week.  I’m generally a pretty good cook, so I tend to just “wing it” when I’m cooking, and I got the idea to do a curry meal – long-simmering – in the crock pot this week.  I mixed together the veggies and the beef and the spices (I’ve done this plenty of times in a regular pot) and then contemplated the vehicle for the curry sauce.

When making a stove-top curry, I typically sautee the veggies, add the meat, and then add some liquid to simmer it in.  Near the end of the cooking time, I’ll add some sour cream or plain yogurt to make it nice and creamy.  To tell you the truth, I’ve never really considered why I do things in that order.  I just do.

Of course, now I know.

Because on Monday morning, bleary-eyed, I mixed together the veggies, the beef, and the spices directly with the yogurt and turned the crock pot on low.

When I came home, the house smelled divine.  But the thick  creaminess of the yogurt had separated and mixed with the water and juices from the veggies and meat and had become a curdled mess!

I attempted a save, skimming as much of the curdled bits off the top as I could and mixing in a cornstarch slurry.  I added the last of the yogurt that was in the fridge, to sort of attempt a creamy base.  But it was beyond saving, still watery and curdley and just disgusting-looking.

We ate it (with a fantastic batch of nan bread and some decent pilau rice…  although I have to remind myself that the saffron in pilau is seasoning enough for the rice and not to get too creative with it).  The curry flavor was nice, the texture of the meat was perfect (and, given the toughness of the piece I started with, was a real victory in and of itself), and the veggies were well-cooked.  But the long simmering in yogurt had given everything a twinge of extreme tanginess that overtook even the curry’s heat.  It was a real disappointment.  I didn’t even take a photo (although now I think I should have, for posterity) because it was so hugely disgusting.

Of course, I still think it will work just fine – just season the meat before throwing it in (rather than seasoning the pot) and add maybe a touch of alcohol (and NOT YOGURT) for simmering.  Then stir in yogurt at the end to get it nice and creamy…  At least, that’s the plan for next time!

Crock Pot Goodness

10 Jun

Our meal planning is still going strong – we still have days when things go a little awry (tonight, I’m going to a friend’s – so I’m not cooking at all, even though we got enough for 5 meals at the store).  We’ve made the resolution now to try to include one vegetarian meal (for health) and one crock pot meal (for time- and wallet-friendly dinners) per week.  I have to share with you the crock pot awesomeness.

Several weeks ago, I spotted a giant package of pork short ribs on sale at the grocery store.  Now, I’m not a huge rib fan and I don’t generally like much in the way of pork (it’s just over the last two or three years that I’ll willingly make and eat tenderloin, but pork chops continue to be on my list of things I don’t want to touch with a ten-foot-pole).  But I couldn’t pass up the excellent buy and I figured it would be worth trying in the crock pot.

Yesterday, we had a meeting with the mortgage person (yes, it was better than I thought, no I’m not sure of anything yet; I’ll update once I know) and I knew we’d be getting home later than usual, so I figured it was a good time to break the ribs out of the freezer and stick them in the crock pot.

Even though I took them out 12 hours before I wanted to start cooking them, they were still pretty frozen.  So when I unwrapped them, I sort of hacked them into 3 parts and stuffed them into the crock pot.  Short ribs are pretty much known as fall-off-the-bone kind of meat (even though I’ve never made them before, I’d had them once at an event), so I didn’t bother with portioning them or anything.  Just shoved them in.

I’d looked in my cookbooks and done a general search online but hadn’t found any really simple recipes I wanted to try…  So I decided to just experiment (the most fun in cooking comes from this!).  Over the ribs, I poured one whole bottle of beer (Karl Strauss Red Trolley) and five or six peeled but not cut-up cloves of garlic with some salt and pepper.  About 10 minutes after I left the house to drive to work, I realized that some mustard would probably play nicely with the flavors, and maybe some paprika.  So I called my husband and asked him to add them when he got home at 2.

I cranked the heat up to high (hubby turned it to low when he got home because he said it was spitting) and went on my merry way.  When we got back from our meeting 10 hours after I’d originally turned the thing on, the whole house smelled like yummy meaty goodness.  The meat was literally falling completely apart, juicy and tender, with some pieces actually getting crispy in a way I never knew crock pots could cook meat (ummm…  I’m guessing it’s because of the high fat content of spare ribs?  because I didn’t add a single drop of fat to the pot!).

I quickly boiled and mashed some parsnip and steamed some green beans and we had a meal (plus enough leftovers to do a lunch of the same combination plus some “carnitas” later on in the week).  I couldn’t believe how incredibly good it was, and how incredibly easy!

tender short ribs braised in beer...  took 3 minutes to prep and oh so good...

tender short ribs braised in beer... took 3 minutes to prep and oh so good...

edited because I totally forgot about the garlic, yo…

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