Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Slow Cook

I’m always trying and subsequently failing to make my life more functional, which is why the slow cooker (or “crock pot”) has always appealed to me. The only problem, my hand-me-down crock pot had a cracked lid, which I learned after attempting to cook with it several years was probably contributing to my inability to make anything decent in the damn thing.

So I bought a new one and set out to prove that it was in fact the dysfunctional crock pot making the sub-par meals and not the dysfunctional cook. After approximately four and a half minutes of research on Amazon, I settled on the Hamilton Beach 33967 Set ‘n Forget 6-Quart Programmable Slow Cooker.

Here’s a tip that everyone already knows: Do not buy a slow cooker that does not have the programmable timing feature. No matter how much you want to be home exactly eight hours after you walk out the door to go to work, you will not be, even if you work in a highly functional, humane environment like I do.

My beautiful new kitchen appliance arrived almost immediately (it arrived the next day even though I chose the free shipping option and before Amazon indicated that the product had left the warehouse—not sure how that little shipping miracle happened), and I immediately began sucking up precious work hours searching for glorious toss-in-and-go recipes.

Slow cooking is all the rage these days (not really), but there’s been a resurgence—now that I think about it, this is probably mainly due to people looking for new ways to make their job title “stay-at-home-blogger.”

Even with all of the resources, just like before, most of the meals I attempted were rather bland or just OK, which when you have 8-10 servings (you can’t really make a crockpot meal for two), OK does not cut it. It started to seem like the secret to crock pot cooking was to use several cans of over-processed, sodium-rich cans of cream of [insert vegetable or meat] soup, which I like to refer to as “death soup.” Not really though.

Then I found a high-rated tortilla soup recipe at Generally I don’t like All Recipes because it’s information overload. Too many people go batshit changing everything about the recipe then post a review saying they loved the recipe but changed a dozen things and suddenly the only thing that has stayed the same about a soup recipe is that fact that they threw a bay leaf into the stock. But this recipe seemed to get a lot of “made the recipe as is and it was great,” reviews, so I took the plunge:

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

My first attempt was tasty, but then, I decided to take the recipe into my own hands. My biggest complaint: the consistency was not soup-ish enough for me. The broth was more chunky that I prefer and I wanted it smooth. So I came up with a plan that added a step to the process of preparing the ingredients, which totally is against the point of a slow cooker meal, but was so worth it:

Step 1: Prepare the broth.
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups water
Approximately 2 cups of chicken broth

Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender (or you can do what I did which was put it all in a big mixing bowl and get out your immersion blender because it excites you as a kitchen appliance). Blend (or process) until smooth.

Step 2: Add all other ingredients to your slow cooker.
1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 10-ounce package frozen corn
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Step 3: Pour the broth into the slow cooker over the other ingredients. Set it on low for eight hours.
The proof: My husband and I went through approximately six of the eight servings of this soup in one day. In my opinion, you can skip the frying of the tortillas in favor of some broken tortilla chips and as much avocado as your little bowl can handle.

As my 20-something coworker would say, “Shit is nom.”

Translation: That is good shit.

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