Found the cookbook at Costco the other day, and snapped it up, because I absolutely endorse America’s Test Kitchen, and their willingness to test and re-test recipes till they find what they believe to be the very best version of any particular recipe.
So far, I’ve tried 3 recipes from my new cookbook, and have been very favorably impressed. As most of us have figured out by now, the idea of “slow cookers” very often sounds better in theory, than slow cookers actually deliver in practice.
What they do really well is boil or simmer, for long periods of time. So any meal that needs that method of food preparation will do well in your crockpot. The problem is, however, that most dishes that have received endless boiling end up turning out tired, both in appearance and in flavor. The meats can turn gray, vegetables can turn to mush, and the whole mess is rather unfortunate. And that is NOT what we want, right?
The cooks at America’s Test Kitchen have discovered some simple but effective techniques that will help your meal not become a gray-tasting mess. Certain steps must be conducted before the ingredients go into the slow cooker, and certain ingredients must be added near the end of cooking time to keep the texture of the meal right, and the flavors bright and vibrant.
So far, as I mentioned, I’ve tried three recipes from this cookbook: Stuffed Bell Peppers, Fire Roasted Tomato Sauce, and Texas Chili. All three have been good, and worthy of being repeated.
I have another favorite chili recipe that I may offer you at another time, that both of my children prefer (JUST barely) but this chili was perfectly lovely, and worthy of another try. The only thing I MIGHT do differently would be to reduce the amount of chili powder. Wow: the flavor of this recipe was intense, and maybe that much chili powder was a touch too much for my kids. But honestly? I liked it a lot.
I also thought it might be helpful to give you a hint that helped me speed this recipe along. It calls for three onions, minced. A long time ago, I gave up using my food processor for chopping onions, because I felt like the food processor tended to turn any onions I tried to chop into slush. HOWEVER: I have learned a new technique with my food processor in regard to chopping onions that has helped me a lot. And besides, this recipe calls for THREE onions, MINCED, which is a LOT of onions, and a much finer chop than the regular chop of “chopped onions”.
So, here’s what I do: cut each onion into fourths. Then, pulse the food processor blade for about 1 second each pulse, about 10 times. Scrape down the sides, and then do it again, up to 10 more times, till your onions look like the appropriate texture for salsa.Voilà! Three onions, minced, in no time at all. That made the onion chopping task go a WHOLE lot more quickly!!!
Another ingredient change for my family: this recipe called for one 5-pound. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 and 1/2 inch chunks, originally. I didn’t have that, but I did have a freezer stocked with ground elk and venison. I used a 2-pound package of ground elk, and it was absolutely delicious. You could absolutely substitute ground beef as well. Just didn’t want anyone to feel tethered to a particular kind of meat, or to mass quantities of beef. Many of us can’t afford 5 pounds of meat, or actually aren’t comfortable using/eating that much meat, so do whatever works for you and your family.
Another thought, in regard to using ingredients efficiently: when I open a can of tomato paste, or a can of chipotle chiles, and have used what I need, I can’t bear to throw away the rest of the can.
And why should you throw away perfectly good ingredients you are likely to need in the future? So, I put a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet, and portion out the tomato paste and the chilis in one tablespoon portions (blops) on the waxed paper. I pop them in the freezer for an hour, so they harden, and don’t stick to each other.
Then, I label a ziplock freezer bag: “Tomato Paste” or “Chipotle Chilis”, and slide them in the bag, waxed paper and all. Then, in the future, when I need a few tablespoons of that ingredient, it is already pre-measured and in my freezer. It takes only a few seconds to thaw, as well, next time you need it! Great tip, huh?
We like to serve our chili topped with grated cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream, and accompanied by some Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips from Trader Joe’s on the side. (I think their blue corn chips are the very best of any brand I’ve tried! You try them, too, if you haven’t already, and let me know what you think!)
Serves 8 to 10
Cooking Time: 9-11 hours on low
5-7 hours on high
3 onions, minced
1/4 c. chili powder
1/4 c. tomato paste
3 T. vegetable oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. ground cumin
1 T. minced fresh oregano or 1 t. dried
2 (15 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28 oz.) can tomato purée
2 c. low sodium chicken broth
1/4 c. Minute tapioca
3 T. soy sauce
2 T. minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
2 T. brown sugar
2 bay leaves
1 five-lb. boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (I used only 2 lbs. ground elk instead; alternatively, you could use venison, or ground beef )
salt and pepper, to taste
3 green onions, sliced thin
1. Microwave minced onions, chili powder, tomato paste, oil, minced garlic, cumin, and oregano in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, for about 5 minutes. Transfer to slow cooker.
2. Stir beans, tomato purée, chicken broth, tapioca, soy sauce, chipotles, sugar, and bay leaves into slow cooker . Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high. (Time was short for me: I went for high.)
3. Let chili settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon. (Elk is low fat: I had no fat to remove! Nice!) Discard bay leaves. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar, to taste. (Mine needed NO further seasoning, at all.) Sprinkle with green onions, and any other chili toppings that YOUR family likes. Most of the members of my family used cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
What do like to serve with your chili? Any secret ingredients you’d like to share?
No related posts.