ribs without the rub

Alright stop the slow cooker presses. I have found the perfect use for my slow cooker (and believe me, this was not easy.) One word: Ribs.

You always have to cook them low and long so why not cram them into the slow cooker, pour sauce on them and come back 8 hours later? Finally, the slow cooker that is supposed to make cooking easier and more delicious is living up to its rep.

I used Meat Hook BBQ sauce which is probably a lot less sweet than the store brands. I literally poured it on top of the rack. After about 7-8 hours, I removed the ribs and quickly broiled them (1-2 minutes) to get the outside crispy. Inside, they were falling off the bone.

The only difficult part of this is planning ahead: deciding what you are going to make for dinner while you are eating breakfast. Ok, maybe not so difficult. Especially if you're Jewish.

slow down salmon

In slow cooker news, I finally steamed/poached salmon according to Grant Achatz's general philosophy of cooking fish in the crockpot. First, I lay lemon slices and a few chives on the floor of the slow cooker. Then I poured in about 1/4 cup vermouth and 1/4 cup water. I seasoned the salmon fillets with salt and pepper and lay them on the bed. Cooked on low for about 1-1.5 hours. It was delicious but may have worked even better with less time and less liquid. I served on a cauliflower puree which I intended to be more of a mash—I saw a good recipe from Art Smith but didn't remember it exactly and added too much liquid. On top is a caper/red onion/olive relish.

Update-I finally did the Art Smith cauliflower recipe after actually reading the recipe and it's amazing and made it into my Paprika collection.

passover 2015 ala slow cooker

This year's menu....made in the slow cooker and much better than Passovers of years past.

Mile End Deli’s Matzoh Ball Soup
(adapted from recipe by Noah Bermanoff)

6 cup chicken stock (stock made in slow cooker from Smitten Kitchen's recipe)
2 cup matzoh meal
1 1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
7 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup schmaltz

Bring stock to a simmer in a 3 quart pot. Meanwhile,in a large bowl combine matzoh meal, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper. Stir in eggs and schmaltz. Using a 1/4 cup measure,scoop out matzoh mixture and roll between palms into balls. Drop matzoh balls into simmering stock. Cover pot and reduce heat slightly to maintain a medium simmer. Cook 15- 20 minutes until balls are puffy and uniform in texture.

Brisket from Cooks County
(better than last year's brisket recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 large onions, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • tablespoon light brown sugar
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  •  2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  •  3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 3⁄4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •  1 (5 lb) flat-cut beef brisket trimmed of exc ess fat
  •  3 sprigs fresh thyme
  •  3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar


    1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil until shimmering. Saute onions, brown sugar, and 1-4 teaspoon salt (to taste) until onions are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Clear a space in the middle of the pan. Add tomato paste and flour to open space and cook, stirring constantly, until darkened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and cook until sauce thickens, about 4 minutes. Off heat, stir in 2 tablespoons vinegar and transfer mixture to bowl. When cool, cover tightly with plastic and refrigerate.

    2. Whisk together 1 teaspoon salt, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne in a small bowl. Prick brisket with fork, evenly all over both faces. Rub spice mixture over brisket and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate brisket and onion mixture overnight.

    3. The next morning, add half of onion mixture to slow-cooker. Add thyme and bay leaves and place brisket, fat side up, on top. Spread remaining onion mixture over brisket. Cover slow cooker and cook on low until brisket is fork-tender, 9 to 10 hours (or cook on high for 5 to 6 hours). If brisket it especially thick, cook an extra hour. Turn cooker off and allow brisket to rest for 30 minutes.

    4. Remove brisket to cutting board. Cut across grain into 1-to-2-inch slices, and transfer to serving platter. Tent with foil.

    5. Pour sauce into large skillet, discard herbs, and simmer over high heat until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Skim off as much fat as possible, add remaining vinegar, then pour half of sauce over brisket. Serve with remaining sauce on side.


jerk chicken in slow cooker

I love my slow cooker these days. I like being able to throw it all in, turn it on and not worry about dinner. Plus we've had some good meals-shredded Mexican chicken, pulled pork. Once you get the hang of it, it is worthwhile. The problem is that I'm not so practiced in it that I can just improvise. I've been using Cook's Illustrated Slow Cooker Revolution book but found it was too complicated for a slow cooker meal so then I bought their second volume: Fast Prep. Much better. This Jerk Chicken recipe came from that volume. Basically you blend the ingredients (scallions, ginger, molasses, etc.) into a paste to cover chicken. Then you slow cook and at the very end, put under the broiler for a crisp skin. 

the judy bird

It was my second year on Turkey duty for the annual Moshan Thanksgiving. For the 20+ guests, I decided to dry brine (something I'd been reading about.) The Judy bird is a very simple recipe adapted from San Fransisco chef Judy Roger's French take on roasted chicken. It's almost too simple: cover with salt and let sit for four days in fridge. Then uncover the bird and let it dry out for a day. Then rub with butter and pepper and cook for four hours.

Deliciously moist and beautifully brown! In fact it only took about three hours in a fairly hot oven. With the turkey, I made this stuffing which I thought was the best part of the whole dinner. I made it a few days ahead and froze it in a foil tray. And finally, also a few days in advance, I made Mark Bittman's Make-Ahead-Gravy base and added drippings from the turkey after it was cooked. By the way, for all of these dishes I used my Crock a Stock. 

crock a stock

Thinking about Thanksgiving in a couple weeks has started me thinking about stock-that essential flavoring that I always leave to the last minute and which always adds more time and cleanup to every recipe. So yesterday while shopping at fairway I bought a bunch of chicken wings with the vague memory of an easy stock that didn't require the whole chicken (or whole carcass). I came home and did some research about easy stocks and discovered a whole thread about making stock in the slow cooker. I decided to try Sara Moulton's Chicken Stock recipe. I skipped the parsley and used the chicken bones from the rotisserie chicken that Michael and Mack were demolishing for lunch. (I saved the extra chicken for another meal or salad.) It turned out a very tasty stock that didn't require a lot of mess or extra steps (no excessive straining, defatting, etc.)I boiled it down some to reduce and concentrate it then froze in in 4-c and 2-c portions.

But I still had 3 pounds of chicken wings in my fridge so I started looking for a more traditional stock recipe and stumbled upon Smitten Kitchen's Perfect Uncluttered Chicken Stock—that happened to be made in a slow cooker! It seems this is sort of a thing. And why not? You're just slow cooking all the ingredients then straining out the liquid. So next I dumped the wings, onion, garlic, salt (and added carrot, celery, peppercorns, thyme and a bay leave ala Moulton.) 10 hours later i had a rich stock (more flavorful and complex than Moulton's recipe) that I could freeze for the weeks ahead. This is the kind of ctockpot use I can appreciate. Less mess, no stove on for many hours. Done.

stock from Smitten Kitchen

me and my slow cooker

One problem with the crock pot is that I don't feel comfortable improvising. So today when the boys went to Long Island and I had a craving on the first really cold day of the year for soup, I made up my own recipe. It was vaguely based on ideas I had read about but basically I made a quick sautee of onion, garlic, spices, olive oil and tomato paste then added broth/water and some veggies. Throughout the day I've been throwing stuff in, like more veggies, chickpeas, some Freekah (super grains), chard leaves, etc. So right now it's a boiling experiment waiting for its revelation. I even turned the heat to high just to get it going.

Update: Veggie Soup was amazing. Michael loved it and we had it for dinner twice and lunch once. Success.

more about me and my slow cooker


So I'm kind of obsessed with my slow cooker (some people call it a crock pot but I think those people bought theirs between 1940-1980.) I bought one a couple of years ago, originally for my mother-in-law who does not cook. She can boil — pasta and eggs. She can microwave takeout containers and she makes a mean salad but actual cooking (sauteeing, roasting, baking, broiling, braising, grilling, frying) is not her thing.

Of course she never used it and it stayed at her house gathering dust from the one time I used it there. (On Passover I made Smitten Kitchen's Tangy Spiced Brisket which was tasty but despite all that slow cooking, it was still a little tough. I might even try this recipe again, in the oven.) I also tried Sara Moulton's short ribs which was recently published by the AP News. This was really good but a little too rich for me. And not actually all that easy.

And this is my thing with the slow cooker. If you're already sauteeing onions, garlic, adding spices, browning meat on the stove before you put it in the cooker, why not just cook it on low in a pot ON the stove. I like being able to turn the thing on and forget about it. It's kind of exciting to see it transform over time. But I can cook without it so either 1. there's something unique about the actual vehicle and the way it cooks the food or 2. it's a throw-everything in and let it rip so you can't do it fast and easy.

I started experimenting with Cooks Illustrated's Slow Cooker Revolution. Those guys cooked a million briskets before nailing down the perfect recipe. (They even invented a technique of microwaving onions and spices before adding to sauce.) I've now made Mexican Chicken, Everyday Chili, Tortilla Soup with chicken, Tequila and lime Turkey Chili and Cauliflower and Cheese sauce (which was just dense and clumpy and wound up in the garbage disposal.) Basically I've made every kind of Mexican stew. And Michael has kindly suggested I move on.

And I'm trying to figure out a new angle for the slow cooker because I'm not done with the thing yet. The stews benefited from long and slow because the meat got tender and the flavors melded. That said, the prep was fairly intensive and they were all somewhat similar. I've seen Sara Lee of the Food Network literally throw a raw roast into a slow cooker and pour in some canned broth and voila-dinner. But is the roast any good? If so, this might be a new direction.