Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 1 of mat leave: Third attempt with slow cooker recipe

So yesterday was my first day of mat leave. My day passed by super quickly, probably because everything that I do takes three times as long now but still, before I knew it, the sun was down and everybody was home already. One of the 'projects' that I am focusing on this year will be to learn to COOK on a daily basis such that if I were the sole cook in our family, we would not just 'survive', my dream is that we would thrive and .... people would actually enjoy my food!!

So came my third attempt at this slow cooking business because everyone tells me wonders about it and how it's so convenient and so delicious. WELL. So far, my food's been bland and my low setting sucks, I'm quite certain now that I need the high setting for any recipe that I don't intend on leaving in the cooker for less then 8 hours.

My first attempt with my slow cooker was plain old vegie & chicken soup. It was alright. My mom was right, the guarantee for good flavor would've been to make the chicken stock first instead of dumping everything in the cooker and hoping that after 8 hours (EIGHT WHOLE HOURS!!), that it would be tasty. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't half as tasty as my mum's broths.

My second attempt with my slow cooker was potatoe, carrot and beef stew. It was......... bland ! Surprise, surprise. Mind you, I think I should've used more fatty beef because my lean beef cubes came out hard as rock. But again, it was not nearly as tasty as my uncle's beef stew!

And finally, my third attempt last night with this chicken recipe that looked really quite promising!

I used a 2 lb chicken so I thought, obviously I won't need six whole hours on my low setting like the recipe demanded for a 4 lb chicken. I set it to 5 hours (to be safe) and low and behold................... parts of the chicken were cooked and the other parts not by the time husband and mom got home. To save time and as I couldn't find our baking dish, I had to chop up the chicken and shoved all contents into a pot and bring it to a simmer to ensure that everything was cooked. The result? Chicken was BLAND ! The vegies were also way too hard still for my liking.... But the gravy was delicious ! 

All this to say- I think that I am embarking on these recipes with too high of an expectation for flavor profile because I am comparing all this to my family's cooking or what I eat at restaurants. But I'm not giving up !! I still think this slow cooker can work because even if I'm uncomfortable leaving the house with it set on High, it's still great on weekends or days when we have parties and someone's at home all day but they needn't mind the cooker all day long ! SOOOO. I am going to attempt all these recipes once more but with my own tweaks!

For the chicken- I am going to try it again with a cornish hen (much smaller so that I can guarantee 100% cooked through-ness) that I will rub and MARINADE the night before so that there's some flavor in the meat :p I think I'mma skip the thyme too, not a fan of that medicine-y flavor. I'm also going to make sure I find my stupid baking dish BEFOREHAND and have it handy so that I can do a quick broil after the cooking is done for crispy skin like the recipe mandated. I will also pre-steam the carrots and potatoe... I just prefer them softer. Oh and, I'mma go straight to the high setting. Forget this low setting crap, it don't work for my patience level. 

For my soup, I wonder if I should keep attempting with that slow cooker. It would be most time consuming to use the slow cooker but I guess it would be for those days when I need to get it out of the way so that I could do other things around the house. I'd boil the chicken and leave it to simmer for at least 30 minutes first in a pot on the stove. Then probably scoop out some of the fat. Then transfer over to slow cooker with all vegies and slow cook............ again on HIGH for a few hours and then maybe on low until we're ready to eat. The more you simmer, the better the soup! 

For the beef stew- I need my uncle's recipe!! I have no idea if he does a marinade or he simply uses fatty beef cubes and leaves it to simmer for longer on a higher temperature... kinda like boeuf bourguignon, at one point, the beef literally melts. Maybe I need a pressure cooker for this instead... cause I don't have the patience to make another boeuf bourguignon the way I did the first time. It was delicious but also took way. way. waaaay. too long. TBD for later on the beef stew. 

Alright. Well, my mother insisted that I take a "break" today from cooking as she doesn't want me touching the organic chicken or slice of fresh tuna that we bought over the weekend. I'm guessing she thinks I'm going to ruin perfectly fine organic chicken and fresh tuna :p It's fair, I'll subject husband and mom to my culinary skills in training on alternate nights until I get better :) 

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