Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Super simple pork roast

Maybe this recipe should be called "souper" simple pork roast, since all it really needs is condensed cream of mushroom soup. This offering is a favorite of my children and one of the easiest recipes you can conjure up. I used a half pork picnic because a full picnic is too large too fit in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Super simple pork roast

Half pork picnic (or other pork roast); approximately 4 pounds
One can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup water
Chopped parsley to garnish

Recipe will serve 6-8.

I used a half picnic and put it in the slow cooker while it was still frozen. This is one of the things I love about using the slow cooker -- no need to defrost.

Mix the can of condensed cream of mushroom soup with a half-cup of water.

Pour it over the pork roast; my youngest one helped with this part. Cook for 8 hours on low. This recipe creates a great sauce that my children love with rice or potatoes. This is a super easy option for dinner that everyone will love.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ham and navy bean soup

There are as many versions to this recipe as there are cooks. I love adding diced tomatoes that include diced chili peppers; it gives the recipe a bit of spice without any extra work. This recipe is super simple and inexpensive -- two great reasons to try it.

Ham and navy bean soup

2 cups dry navy beans; soak overnight in water to cover
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
One 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with chilis
1 pound cooked ham, diced
1 teaspoon oregano

Serves 8-10.

In the morning, drain and rinse the navy beans.
Dice the ham and carrots and place them in a six-quart slow cooker.

Drain the navy beans and add them to the slow cooker.

Then add the diced tomatoes.

Add three cans of water, rinising out the can that had held the tomatoes. Also add the oregano.

Cook for 8 hours on low. As with most heartier soups, I love to serve this soup with rice. This was dinner earlier this week. Simple and delicious.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Best-ever grilled chicken

I know this is a cocky title for a chicken dish, but I promise it will meet expectations. This is a recipe used in my family for more than 40 years on chicken and beef, and frankly nothing surpasses it. This isn't a slow cooker recipe, but you gotta have patience (at least three day's worth) to do this one right. It uses what our family calls the Don Farris marinade, for my brother's godfather. He developed the marinade after years of dining out with my parents and having a similar dish in a Norfolk restaurant. By trial and error, he developed the Don Farris blend.

His recipe is as follows:

Don Farris marinade

1/3 cup corn oil
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Blend all ingredients and use it to marinate 10-12 chicken thighs or a london broil beef roast (his favorite) for about three days. Grill the meat over direct heat. For whole thighs, cook 45 minutes to an hour. For london broil, cook about 7 minutes per side, for medium rare. Slice thinly on the bias.

BUT.... Before you start mixing up the marinade to grill for the weekend, consider some modifications.

A third of a cup of oil is a lot of oil. This recipe originated in the 1960s, before people seemed to worry about eating so much oil. And my husband cannot eat garlic or onions. (I know, he is missing out on great pleasure in life.) And, here is the biggie: It took me more than 20 years of cooking on my own to break from cooking whole chicken thighs, like my parents. Buy the boneless, skinless thighs available in most grocery stores (or bone them yourself). Thighs are a juicy part that hold up well to grilling, but boneless thighs cook faster, reducing the chance for burning or drying out on the grill.

Here's my modified recipe:

Best-ever grilled chicken

10-12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Blend the marinade ingredients to completely dissolve the sugar. Add the chicken pieces and cover. It's best to use a recloseable plastic container, or a large resealable plastic bag. Regrigerate for three days, turning the chicken each day. After three days it will look like this. (The smell is fantastic, even if the raw chicken isn't!)

Prepare a charcoal or propane grill for direct grilling.

Place the chicken thighs on the grill.

Don't crowd the grill. Leave a few inches of space between the pieces of meat. (Yes, I was grilling barefoot on Tuesday!)

Close the lid and let the heat do the work. After about 10 minutes, check the chicken and give it a baste.

Again, close the lid and let the heat do the work.

Here's what it should look like after about 15 minutes, or midway through cooking:

Pretty, huh? Just close the lid again and let it keep cooking. This will cut down on flareups (as will using skinless thighs and less oil in the marinade).

Getting close to being done here. Just baste again...

And make sure the pieces are cooked through. Total cooking time for boneless thighs should be about 30 minutes. If some pieces are cooking too quickly, move them to cooler parts of the grill. If some are too slow, move them to the hotter spots. After 30 minutes, remove to a platter and voila:

Best-ever grilled chicken. This is so delicious, you won't be able to stop eating. I made this a couple of weeks ago and my children were tearing off bits of the chicken and eating it while standing around the grill. Last night, my husband and I made it again. Yes, this plate is a memory already; we enjoyed it for dinner, lunch and dinner again. Seriously, try this one; it is a home run and it will become a favorite in your family.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Burgundy beef stew

My husband doesn't really like beef stew, but normally eats it without too many complaints. I, on the other hand, love beef stew and think it is one of the wonderful reasons for using a slow cooker. This week I tried a new twist on beef stew, to delicious results.

You'll need:

3 medium potatoes, diced
5 carrots, peeled and rough chopped
1 pound of stew meat
8 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 cup burgundy or other full-bodied red wine
1 tablespoon worchestire sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon of oil, to brown stew meat
1/2 cup flour, for dredging
Pat of butter
salt and pepper

Wash and dice the potatoes and carrots. I peeled the carrots, but left the skins on the potatoes. Why bother?

Slice the potatoes into half-inch slices, then lay the slices on the board and repeat. Dice in half-inch pieces. I rough chopped the carrots into similar sized pieces as the potato.

Place the chopped vegetables in a 6-quart slow cooker that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Season the stew meat with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a resealable bag, then drop in about half the stew meat. Reclose the bag and shake, shake, shake. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Shake off the excess flour and place the meat in the skillet. Brown on all sides; this will take about 5 minutes. Brown the meat in two batches to reduce crowding in the pan.

Using a slotted spoon, place the browned stew meat on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker. Brown the remaining meat and add it to the cooker.

Top the browned stew meat with the tomato sauce and oregano. (You can cheat and substitute about a 1/2 cup of ketchup for the tomato sauce in a pinch). Now for the really yummy part. Add one cup burgundy or other red wine to the pan drippings in the skillet. Also add the worchestire sauce and a pat of butter.

It smells delicious! Once you add the pat of butter, cut the heat and stir the pan to melt. Then pour the wine mixture over the meat and vegetables. It will make them happy, I promise. Cook in the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. When you come home and stir the cooker, this is what you will see.

Gorgeous, right? And delicious, too. I promise. The wine gives this recipe a richer flavor than other beef stew recipes I've tried. It was so good, in fact, that after dinner (and before I packaged up the meager leftovers) I caught my husband sopping up the gravy from the bottom of the pan. That was the best -- and funniest -- news of the night. This recipe is a keeper.