As much as I may enjoy laboring over a homemade pie crust or an intricate recipe for boeuf bourgignon, sometimes I crave the ease and simplicity of a crock pot meal. It is marvelous to be able to toss in a few ingredients, turn on the heat, and leave for the day, knowing that I’ll be greeted by delicious smells and a hot meal ready to eat when I walk in the door. While I fancy a spicy chili with cornbread or a comforting chicken vegetable soup, I also like to make things interesting by incorporating flavors and ideas from from around the world.
Add International Flavor
Curries are one of my favorite crockpot meals whether it’s a zesty Indian chicken curry with lime and ricotta or a savory Middle Eastern goat curry with lentils and frizzled onions. On stormy winter evenings, I like a hearty meal such as rich French-style chicken stew with Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and red wine. It’s easy to bring a taste of Italy to the table by making slow-cooked sauces. One of my go-to sauces is a chunky tomato simmered with capers, olives, and fresh herbs. Turn it into a Mediterranean-style stew by adding chunks of fish or plump prawns and topping it with tart feta cheese an hour before you’re ready to serve.
Cook Up Meat or Sweets
The crock pot is brilliant for turning great hunks of corned beef, ham, or pickled pork into tasty and tender shredded meat that can quickly become a meal of American BBQ sandwiches or Australian meat pies. It’s also handy for sweet items such as slow-cooked mincemeat for tarts or mulled wine and spiced cider. I like using my crock pot to make German-style fruit soup. Simply fill the bottom of the crock with ripe plums or peaches or nectarines, cover with water, drizzle with maple syrup, and tuck in a few whole spices such as star anise and cinnamon. Let everything simmer for several hours then strain, chill, and stir in a bit of cold whole milk.
French-style Slow Cooker Chicken with Olives and Red Wine
- 3-4 chicken breasts, cut into squares
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
- 2-3 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil
- 1 onion
- diced 3-4 garlic cloves
- minced 2 carrots, quartered and sliced
- 1 sprig rosemary, chopped
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
- 2 cups red wine (Merlot or similar hearty red)
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- salt and pepper
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
1. Place flour and seasoned salt in plastic bag, add chicken pieces and toss to coat.
2. Melt bacon grease in saucepan, add chicken and cook, stirring regularly, until browned.
3. Pour chicken pieces into slow cooker.
4. Add onions, carrot and garlic to sauce pan. (Add more bacon grease if necessary.) Cook until onion is softened. Add to chicken pieces.
5. Add remaining ingredients, except parsley, and stir to combine. 6. Cook on high for 3-4 hours.
7. Serve over warm polenta or garlic mashed potatoes, and sprinkle with parsley.
German-style Cold Plum Soup
- 12-16 ripe plums
- 1/2 cup sugar or honey or maple syrup
- whole cloves or cinnamon or star anise
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1-2 cups cold milk
1. Wash, halve, and pit plums. Place in bottom of crockpot.
2. Cover with water by at least 1 inch.
3. Drizzle with sweetener and add whole spices.
4. Cover and cook on high 4-6 hours.
5. Turn off and cool.
6. Strain fruit, reserving liquid. Puree fruit in a blender then strain, or press through a food mill. Add liquid to reserved liquid.
7. Taste for sweetness, add more if it’s not sweet enough.
8. Stir in cold milk and vanilla.
9. Chill until ready to serve.
Photo Credits: Author