Slow is the way to go for flavor-filled meals

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2019

By Deirdre Parker Smith

As we’re seeing, winter is not over yet, but since we had that taste of spring, it’s been hard to think of anything else.

Still, you have to feed yourself, and as the days get longer, maybe you want to throw something in your slow cooker and have it waiting for you when you get home.

Stews, soups and chilis are all good and easy to set up for long, slow cooking, but there’s more out there, too.

Try something a little different — surprise your family with a dinner that combines out-of-the-ordinary flavors.

Most cuts of meat can stand up to slow cooking, but big cuts, like brisket, do especially well, needing the time and mositure to break down the fibers of the meat into something succulent and tender.

Chicken thighs hold up well, and can be as easy as adding half a jar of orange marmalade and a whole, diced onion to the slow cooker. Or throw in a cup or so of your favorite salsa, and you can use the chicken as is, put it in a burrito or taco or wrap it in an enchilada and sprinkle it with lots of grated mozzarella.

A slow cooker is a good way to combine a variety of diverse flavors.

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 cups chopped red bell peppers

2 cups chopped yellow onion

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved

1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

3 Tbsp. minced garlic

1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

1/2 cup red wine

4 pounds, bone in, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

1 (28 oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1 cup unsalted chicken broth

1/4 cup drained capers

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

3 cups water

1 1/3 cups uncooked instant polenta

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add bell peppers, onion, mushrooms and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add flour, tomato paste, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in wine, cook, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, for 30 seconds.

Transfer the mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in chicken, tomatoes, broth and capers. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board. Let cool for 5 minutes. Remove bones and return chicken to the slow cooker. Stir in olives and the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover to keep warm.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in polenta; cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan. Serve the chicken and sauce over the polenta, topped with basil.

Eating Well

Slow Cooker Brisket and Onions

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 pounds (about 2) yellow onions sliced in half moons

3 1/2 pounds beef brisket

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups low-sodium beef broth

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook on medium-low to medium heat, stirring frequently until onions have caramelized lightly, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, sear the brisket.

Pat the brisket dry with paper towels. Season generously all over with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and turn on your vent or fan, if you have one. Add the brisket and sear, flipping once, until a golden brown crust forms. Transfer to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker, fat side up. Sprinkle the minced garlic over the brisket.

When the onions are ready, pile them on top around the meat. Mix the broth, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce or tamari together and pour into the slow cooker.

Cover and cook until the brisket is very tender, 6-8 hours on low. Switch to warm setting and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

The brisket can be sliced or shredded immediately and served with the onions and juices.

Simple and Healthy Slow Cooker Butter Chicken

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces

1 yellow onion, minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced

2 tsp. curry powder

2 Tbsp. Garam Masala

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. grand cardamom

1/4 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. sea salt

6 ounces tomato paste

14 ounces coconut milk

1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

4 Tbsp. heavy cream

1 1/2 Tbsp. butter

1 jalepeno, seeded

1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 cup torn cilantro

1 cup cooked rice

Combine yogurt, heavy cream, coconut milk and tomato paste. Add in the remainder of the ingredients, except cilantro, and stir well. Place the mixture into the slow cooker and turn heat to low and cook for 6-7 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve over rice and top with cilantro.

A Tasty Mess

Cinnamon Apple Brown Betty

5 medium tart apples, cubed

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

6 Tbsp. butter, melted

10 slices (6 cups) day-old cinnamon-raisin bread

Whipped cream, optional

In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to apple mixture and toss to coat. In a large bowl, drizzle butter over bread cubes; toss to coat.

Place 2 cups bread cubes in a greased 3 or 4-quart slow cooker. Layer with half of the apple mixture and 2 cups bread cubes. Repeat layers. Cook, covered, on low 2-3 hours or until apples are tender. Stir before serving. Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Taste of Home