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Still magic after all these years

Posted: March 21, 2012 - 8:46am
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The images of Split Pea Soup (left) and Sauerkraut and Smoked Sausage (right) depict how food looks when they are placed in a slow cooker and how they appear after being cooked for several hours on a setting of LOW. For optimum performance, use the right size slow cooker for the job, filling it with food from halfway to within 1 inch of the rim. For a change, enjoy homemade Sally Lunn Bread (recipe follows),  or fresh-baked soft pretzels, with either of these dishes.
The images of Split Pea Soup (left) and Sauerkraut and Smoked Sausage (right) depict how food looks when they are placed in a slow cooker and how they appear after being cooked for several hours on a setting of LOW. For optimum performance, use the right size slow cooker for the job, filling it with food from halfway to within 1 inch of the rim. For a change, enjoy homemade Sally Lunn Bread (recipe follows), or fresh-baked soft pretzels, with either of these dishes.

Like many of you, since the Rival Company introduced America to the nation’s first Crock-Pot®  in the early 1970’s, I don’t use my slow cooker as much as I used to. I’m not sure why that is exactly, because using a slow cooker was always very amusing. We place our uncooked food into the pot and several hours later, as if by magic, out  came a fully-cooked meal. If you are new to using a slow cooker, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the easiest slow cooker recipes are the ones that do not require any pre-browning of meat or sautéeing of vegetables. With a little trimming, chopping and opening of some cans, jars or bags, a slow cooker meal is ready to go in minutes. Also, recipes that can be cooked on a cooker’s LOW setting  are good recipes to consider if you plan to be away from the kitchn all day. Foods cooked on LOW will have less opportuity to dry out and require the least amount of attention, particularly good if you get delayed coming home. Second, to keep meals that contain meat from swimming in accumulated fat for hours, select lean cuts, or trim away fat before placing it in the cooker.  And lastly, slow cookers come in various sizes, so depending on the size of your recipe, choose a cooker that will meet your needs. The recipes here were tested in a 5 1/2-quart-size cooker with a volume sufficient for  food to move around in the the liquid and steam contained inside the cooker.  For a slow cooker to do the job it was designed to do, fill it from halfway to more than about one inch from the rim. Using a slow cooker that is too big for the amount of food used will yield just as poor an outcome as a cooker that is too small for the task.

Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at kitchenade@yahoo.com.

Split Pea with Ham Soup

1 pound dried split peas
4 cups reduced sodium chicken stock
5 cups water
2 stalks celery diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves
Pinch caynenne
Pinch white pepp
1 bay leaf
1 meaty ham bone or ham hock
Salt to taste
Toasted croutons for garnishing

Place the peas, chicken stock, water, celery, carrot, onion, thyme, marjoram, cayenne, white pepper and bay leaf into the slow cooker; stir to blend. Burrow the ham hock into the center of the of the mixture.   Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours, or until the peas are tender. When  cooked, remove the bay leaf and ham hock, removing as much lean meat from the bone, as possible; set meat aside. If you like a smooth soup, purée the soup in a food processor or blender, otherwise leave it “chunky.” Return meat to soup and adjust seasoning before serving. Garnish soup with croutons, if desired. Makes 8 servings.

Slow Cooker Sauerkraut and Smoked Sausage

1 (32-ounce) can or bag of sauerkraut, drained
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 pound regular, or low fat, smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced
1 medium onion sliced
8 ounces beer, any kind
2 to 4 frozen soft preztels, baked according to package directions
Assorted mustards
In a mixing bowl, combine the saukerkraut, caraway seeds and brown sugar; mix well to blend, then place mixture in a 5 1/2-quart slow cooker. Arrange potatoes on top of the sauerkraut, then place the sausages on top of the potatoes, topping with the sliced onion. Pour the beer over all. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until potatoes are tender. Just before serving, bake soft prezels according to directions on package, accompanied by a variety of mustards. Makes 4 servings.

Sally Lunn Bread

Recipe source: King Arthur Flour, www.kingarthur.flour.com, 1-800-827-6836

1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/8 teaspoon lemon oil, or 1 tablespoon lemon zest)
6 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 large eggs, whisked until barely frothy
1 tablespoon instant yeast (SAF Gold or Fermipan Brown work well)*

Glaze
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Dough: Scald the milk or cream by heating it in a saucepan or microwave oven until tiny bubbles appear around the edge and the first wisps of steam begin to appear. Transfer it to a medium-sized bowl, the bowl of an electric mixer, food processor work bowl, or bread machine bucket. Stir in the vanilla, lemon oil or zest, butter and sugar. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm. Add the salt, 2 cups of the flour, the eggs and the yeast. Beat the mixture on medium speed for several minutes; if you are using a food processor, mix for about 60 seconds; in a bread machine, program the machine for Dough or Manual, and mix for several minutes, until everything is well combined.
Note: This is very sticky, wet dough, and as it’s too sticky to knead, it has to be beaten to develop its gluten. Add the remaining flour to the mixture and beat until it becomes soft dough. Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until almost doubled in bulk. This is a slow riser; be patient. Grease and flour the pan of your choice. Give the dough/batter a couple of stirs, then pour it into the pan. Wet your hands and smooth the top of the dough. Cover the pan with a damp cloth or greased plastic wrap and set the dough aside to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours -- until the top crowns over the rim of the pan. Place the oven rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it with foil after 20 minutes if it seems to be browning too quickly on the top. Glaze: In a very small pan or microwave-safe bowl, mix the sugar and milk. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir until the sugar dissolves. Brush the mixture over the top of the bread immediately after it’s removed from the oven. Let the bread cool for 20 minutes before slicing. It’s delicious eaten slightly warm, or toasted. Most Americans use it for sandwiches or toast; Britons tend to view it more as a teatime confection. Yield: 1 loaf, 12 wedges.
*Kitchen Ade Notes: Besides SAF and Fermipan Brown brands instant yeast (available at King Arthur Flour), Fleischmann’s Instant and Bread Machine Yeast is the same as “instant” yeast.  Also, I baked this Sally Lunn Bread in King Arthur Flour’s 10-inch stoneware ring mold, it may also be baked in an 8 or 9-inch round pan (with sides at least 2 1/2 inches high or taller.
To order visit the King Arthur website at www.kingarthurflour.com, or call 1-800-827-6836.

 

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