With cold nights, the emergence of winter sweaters and mugs of steaming cocoa, there is the need for 24-hour comfort. Comfort food, that is. You can go through the drive thru, sure. You can also slave over the stove or fill a sink with a dozen mixing bowls and pans.
But the best way to get that comfort food and home-cooked flavor is with the slow cooker. Just throw in your favorites, put a lid on it, plug it in and come back a few hours later. There’s little mess, and the whole house will fill with the aroma of herbs and spices.
James Petzold, who works at Lodi Cooks, says slow cookers are convenient features to have in the kitchen. His favorite dishes to make are baked apples and pot roasts.
“Before you go out and get your Christmas tree, you can start you meal,” he said, “When you get home, you say ... Oh my gosh, it smells so good in here.”
Petzold says Lodi Cooks sell a 6.5 quart All-Clad brand of slow cooker. Like many new, high-tech slow cookers, it has a programmable time that allows you to set it to turn on 26 hours before you want it to start. Others now have more features like touch screens, automatic turn off and an aesthetic perk, stainless ste el.
It’s hard to mess up when using a slow cooker, but some misjudge cooking time. If you aren’t sure of a new recipe, keep checking to see if it needs more liquid or to be stirred.
Richard Berardi, owner of Tin Roof BBQ, makes himself a Crock Pot stew for himself throughout the winter. He spends so much time at the restaurant that when he goes home, he needs something that is hearty, quick and nutritional. In his stew, he uses chuck roast and basics, like carrots, pearl onions, red wine and homemade beef stock. He’ll cook it on low for about five hours.
Pulled pork is also easy to make in the slow cooker. Berardi recommends coating the pork with your favorite rub and wrapping it in plastic overnight. The next day, brown it and sear it before you put it in the slow cooker. Cover the bottom of the slow cooker with a Carolina vinegar barbecue sauce of apple cider vinegar, ketchup and red pepper diluted with water. Cook it until it begins to fall apart when you touch it.“We like to put fried onions on it, too,” he said.
Jim Roster, owner of Lakewood Meats, says slow cookers are good for a variety of meats, from short ribs to chuck roasts. However, he doesn’t get as many questions about cooking from the younger generation.
“People don’t Crock Pot like they used to,” he said.