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.