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A Slow Day Calls for Slow Cooking

It’s been a typical Monday, so I am glad I was cooking with the slow cooker today. Today I am using a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for Chicken and Dumplings. I’ve made this before on the stove top, but I decided to use the slow cooker method today.

Chicken and Dumplings

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, minced

2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick

6 garlic cloves, minced

1  tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dry sherry

4 1/2 cups chicken broth, plus extra if needed

4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 bay leaves

1 cup frozen peas

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

For the Dumplings:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons butter

Dry the chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the chicken lightly on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 tablespoon more of the oil and the remaining chicken; transfer to a bowl.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, celery, garlic, tomato paste and thyme, and cook until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Whisk in 1 cup of broth, smoothing out any lumps; transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining 3 1/2 cups of broth, carrots and bay leaves into the slow cooker. Nestle browned chicken with any accumulated juices into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low setting.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, then shred into bite size pieces. Let the stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from the surface using a large spoon. Discard the bay leaves. Stir the shredded chicken, peas and parsley into the stew, and season with salt and pepper to taste (Adjust the stew consistency with additional broth if necessary). Cover and cook on high until simmering, or transfer to a Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

For the dumplings, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Microwave the milk and butter together until warm, about 1 minute, then whisk to melt the butter. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just incorporated and smooth. Drop golf ball size dumplings on top of the simmering stew, leaving about 1/4 inch between each dumpling (you should have about 18 dumplings). Cover and cook until the dumplings double in size, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve.

It’s a delicious meal. The dumplings come out just right and the chicken just falls apart and tastes wonderful. Here’s a picture of how it looks when it’s done:

Tomorrow night’s meal will be the Spaghetti and Meatballs that I never got to last week. Work schedules and homework just got in the way last week, but this week we shouldn’t have any problems (fingers crossed). I have made spaghetti and meatballs before, and if you want to see the previous recipe, you can check it out here. I think I am going to try to vary it a little bit this time. Check back tomorrow and see how it looks. Until then, enjoy the last day of winter (it was 74 here in New York today) and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Poultry, Slow Cooker Meals

 

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Slow Cooking Short Ribs

Tonight’s dinner is all about short ribs. Short ribs are all about the meat and the sauce, and this recipe gives a great deep flavor for both and most of the work is done in the slow cooker.

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

5 pounds bone-in shirt ribs, meat and bones separated

Salt and pepper

 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions,chopped medium

1 carrot, peeled and chopped medium

1 celery rib, chopped medium

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups dry red wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups chicken broth

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Separate the meat from the bones by inserting a knife between the rib and meat, staying as close to the bone as possible. Saw the meat off the bone and set aside. Arrange the beef bones in a dish and microwave (in batches, if your microwave is small) until well browned, 10 to 15 minutes; transfer the bones to the slow cooker.

Dry the short ribs meat with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the short ribs well on all sides, 7 to minutes; transfer the meat to the slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil and the remaining short ribs; when done, transfer them to the slow cooker.

Add the onions, carrot, celery, tomato paste and thyme to the fat in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the wine and the vinegar, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes; transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir the broth and the bay leaves into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high. Transfer the short ribs to a serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let the braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove the fat from the surface using a large spoon. Strain the braising liquid, discarding the solids, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the short ribs and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

Microwaving the bones before cooking may seem a little odd, but it actually does two things for you: first, it renders out a lot of unwanted fat (short ribs can be very greasy) and second, it gives the bones a roasted flavor which in turn deepens the sauce during the long cooking time. It’s a little work at first with the microwave and the skillet, but I think you’ll be happy with the results if you put the work into it.

I am serving the short ribs with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes go perfectly with this meal and  placing a couple of the ribs with the sauce directly over the mashed potatoes is delicious. I have posted my recipe for mashed potatoes before, so if you would like to check it out, feel free to click here to get it. I am also keeping the vegetable simple with just some steamed broccoli to round out the meal.

That’s all there is to this dinner. Mondays seem to cry out for a nice, slow cooker meal. So many of us are ready to crash by the time the day ends on Monday, so it would be nice to come home to meal that is just about done. You can even peel the potatoes ahead of time and just leave them in a pot of water on the stove so you can just turn it on and go when you get home.

Tomorrow night’s meal is a simple Spaghetti and Meatballs, which I have made before. I may do a slight variation on it this time, so check back and see how the recipe looks. I’ll also be writing about a couple of items I am looking to purchase to make cooking a little easier and fun, so check back and see those as well. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or recipes you may be looking for, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. I hope everyone is enjoying the warm weather today. Spring is right around the corner, and I’ll be cleaning up the grill soon so we can start using that for cooking too! Enjoy your day and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Potatoes, Slow Cooker Meals

 

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Slow Cooking Some Stew

Tonight’s dinner has been cooking all day and it smells terrific. Beef stew is one of those meals that you can make all day in the slow cooker or all day on the stove, and it makes the whole house smell great. You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make it and you can always add other vegetables to it if you want.

Beef Stew with Bacon

4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste

2 pounds boneless beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into chunks (I am actually using a london broil instead this time)

3/4 cup fresh mushrooms, halved if large

1/2 pound baby carrots

4 to 5 small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1/2 pound frozen pearl onions (you can use 1 large yellow onion, chopped, instead)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup beef broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

In a large fry pan over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off the drippings into a small heatproof bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon drippings in the pan. Set the pan, reserved drippings and bacon aside.

In a sealable plastic bag, combine the flour, the 1 teaspoon of salt and the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Add the beef chunks and shake to coat evenly with the flour mixture. Return the fry pan to medium-high heat. When the drippings are hot, add half the beef chunks and cook, turning once, until well browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining beef chunks, adding the reserved drippings if needed. Scatter the mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic on top.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the wine, broth and tomato paste. Mix well, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom. Pour the  contents of the pan over the vegetables and beef. Cover and cook on the high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours or the low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours. The beef should be very tender. Stir in the reserved bacon. Cook, uncovered, on the high-heat setting for 10 minutes more to thicken the sauce slightly. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Of course, the stew is great served with some crunchy bread, rolls or biscuits. If you would like to see a simple biscuit recipe, just check here for a previous blog entry that included the biscuits. You can always freeze any leftovers to save to be re-heated on a later day or use it for lunches during the week.

This was a pretty simple slow cooker meal, which is ideal for a Monday night. Tomorrow night, I’ll be making Bacon Chicken Ranch Quesadillas and we’ll be having the leftover black beans and rice and mango pineapple salsa, both from Sunday’s dinner. If you have any questions or there are any recipes that you might like to see or if you have some ideas for the blog, please feel free to leave a comment. Until tomorrow, have a great evening and enjoy your meal!

 
 

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Saturday’s Leftovers and Next Week’s Plan

Today is a day we had marked to use for leftovers and we do have some things left from the week. Tonight for dinner, we are going to have hot open-faced pot roast sandwiches on some bread from Rockland Bakery with some mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s all left over from last night’s meal. We’ve done a good job with any other leftovers this week, with Michelle bringing stuff for lunch all week, so there really isn’t too much left to anything with tonight other than what we had yesterday.

So that leads me up to next week’s meal plan. We’ve decided to go with all one pot meals this week to try to make things easy for clean up, and we’re also going to use the slow cooker twice this week to try to ease things as far as time for cooking. I am going to try to start using the slow cooker on Monday’s meal, since this seems to be the busiest day of the week for me with everything that goes on around here. This week, however, I will be utilizing leftovers from Sunday’s meal to make Monday’s meal. So, here’s the plan for this week:

Sunday: Roast Leg of Lamb, Baked Potatoes, Cauliflower, and Turnips

Monday – Shepherd’s Pie

Tuesday – Chicken Marsala (this one is done in the slow cooker)

Wednesday – Black Bean Stew (our meat-free meal of the week)

Thursday – Jambalaya

Friday – Beef Stew (also done in the slow cooker)

Saturday – We are marking as a leftovers day. Saturdays, for us anyway, often seem ideal as a leftover day since we usually try to just relax all day long, or we’ve done chores all day long and no one feels like thinking about meals or cooking.

The Shepherd’s Pie on Monday will use any leftover lamb from Sunday as well as the leftover turnips. The Chicken Marsala on Tuesday is a slow cooker recipe that I’ll be using, but you can also make it traditionally. I thought it would be fun to try it in the slow cooker and see how it comes out. The other meals are great one pot meals to make, even if the Jambalaya requires quite a bit of prep work as far as cutting and chopping. Thursdays also seem to lend themselves well to our seafood meal of the week since I often have the time to get fresh seafood on Thursday mornings. Some of the ingredients I am using this week are a little out of the norm for what you may have around the house, such as the lamb for the shepherd’s pie (if we weren’t having it on Sunday, I wouldn’t be making it at all), Marsala wine for the Chicken Marsala, andouille sausage for the Jambalaya, and black beans for the Black Bean Stew. Other than those items, I didn’t have to shop for anything that we didn’t already have around the house, really bringing the shopping bill down for this week, which is great. If you want to use the same meal plan layout that I follow, you can get it here:family_meal_planner

That’s about all I have to post for today. It’s been a pretty lazy day for me other than the shopping I did, so I think I’ll get back to lounging for the rest of the day :). If you have any questions, comments or recipes that you might like to see, please let me know. Any and all input is appreciated. I hope everyone is enjoying their long weekend so far and have a great Saturday night!

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in Meal Plan Menu

 

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Jennifer Probst

a little bit naughty a little bit nice

Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

simple cooking recipes

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