ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: My First Slow Cooker Experience!

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Recently CSN Stores gave me a $40 gift certificate to use at my discretion, as long as I reviewed whatever item I purchased from them. After taking an informal poll on the blog, I opted for a slow cooker (just barely edging out the ice cream machine, which has been out of stock anyway). I was actually quite excited for this new addition to my kitchen, and I knew there would be no better way to consecrate the device than by whipping up a dish for Big Brother premiere night. All I needed to do was settle on a recipe.

Well, there’s a restaurant nearby called Lotería Grill, which specializes in upmarket Mexican fare. One of my favorite items on the menu there is a carne deshebrada. Garlicky, juicy, flavorful — my mouth waters for it nearly around the clock, it seems. I knew I could somehow replicate this wonderful shredded beef; so off to the Internet I went, and lo and behold, Epicurious seemed to have just what I was looking for: Carne Deshebrada en Salsa Roja! Truth be told, this recipe was designed for a dutch oven, but one of the commenters left a review saying he or she had executed the dish in a slow cooker to excellent results. Could this have been more perfect?

I took a perfunctory glance at the recipe and decided this was what I’d be making. To be fair, I hardly even read the steps involved. I just jotted down the ingredients, went to the store, and got to work. The results of this endeavor after the jump…

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The slow cooker in all its glory. A 7 qt Hamilton Beach beaut.

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Me proudly displaying the inner container. I’m actually quite excited.

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First things first: I have to defrost a two pound chuck roast. This takes about an hour.

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Next I throw some bay leaves, some allspice, a clove, and some garlic into the pot.

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In goes the meat, sliced into smaller, friendlier sizes.

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Two and a half quarts of water enter the equation next.

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I have limited time (5 hours instead of 10); so I regrettably have to put the cooker on high. I would have liked a power light. Some visual feedback never hurt anyone.

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The lid goes on, and I head out the door for some afternoon errands and activities.

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Me anxiously leaving the slow cooker behind.

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Four hours later, I return home to find my apartment smelling wonderful. However, I also hear a loud fizzing sound. Turns out that a puddle of warm condensation has accumulated on the outer rim of the slow cooker. Air bubbles from deep within are then splattered the water on the nearby countertop. It’s slightly messy.

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Aforementioned splatter on the counter, now on my finger.

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Aforementioned puddle.

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As the meat enters its final stages, I begin making the sauce, which turns out to be an excessively complicated process. First, I must quarter three tomatoes, toss them in vegetable oil, and then broil them. Here they are about to enter the wonderful world of my toaster oven.

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Next I have to slit, deseed, and stem three ounces of dried guajillo chilies.

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This process leaves behind an enormous number of seeds.

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I then have to toast the chilies in a skillet until they change color.

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After toasting comes thirty minutes of soaking in water.

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Meanwhile, the tomatoes have emerged from the broiler looking wrinkled and slightly charred. All is well.

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I must now puree the tomatoes with garlic, onions, salt, allspice, cumin, a clove (also toasted in a skillet), and chiles de árbol.

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Oh yeah, I also have to add two cups of this beef broth to the puree.

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In an effort to get just the broth, I must strain it into a bowl. Note the number of dishes quietly building up over the course of this recipe.

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The meat, meanwhile, looks moist and succulent. I can’t wait to try it.

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Nevertheless, the broth (and the soaked chilies) go into the blender. It’s a tight fit. Perhaps too tight. But I’m determined to get this all done in one batch.

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The instructions then say the pureed sauce must be heated through in a pot. Out comes the dutch oven. DAMMIT. What’s even the point of the slow cooker if I have to use a dutch oven too?

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Meanwhile, I easily shred up the beef. I give it a taste test. It tastes like… nothing. There’s no flavor. And it’s not that moist (probably due to the “high” setting). I’m massively disappointed. However, I know I’ve just made a giant batch of sauce; so moisture won’t be an issue. The lack of garlicky goodness will be.

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I heat the sauce in the pan. I do a taste test, and… IT’S DULL. How could this damn sauce with all its ingredients be so flavorless? This is turning into a disaster. Not only am I already using way too many dishes, but nothing is actually tasting too wonderful.

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The meat goes in, and I immediately notice that my sauce to beef ratio is way off. That’s the least of my concerns. I just want it to taste better. I immediately toss in more salt and three or four more garlic cloves.

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After five or ten minutes of simmering and adjusting, I’m finally happy with the dish. I pack it up in Gladware and go off to my Big Brother viewing.

The Verdict: pretty good. Nothing amazing. Definitely, by the time I arrived at my friend’s place twenty minutes later, the dish tasted much better. I imagine the added garlic had time to disseminate throughout the sauce. In fact, later in the evening, when I had a second helping, the flavors most certainly had improved even more. And then the next afternoon, it was even better. Still though, this dish was not mindblowing. It wasn’t anything that would make a crowd gush with praise. Plus, it was a touch too runny, making tacos a drippy, messy affair.

The main problem really though was that this recipe necessitated so many different pots and pans. Part of that might have been my own lack of efficiency, but still, for something that had seemed so straightforward and easy, it certainly became rather labor intensive toward the end. If I were to make this again, I would a) cook the meat on the low setting; b) throw a full head of garlic into the slow cooker; c) massively increase the garlic in the sauce; d) up the salt in the sauce too, but carefully, and e) add more beef or add less sauce.

This was a fun experiment, but it was nowhere near my lofty goals of making a Lotería quality deshebrada. For my next experiment, I’m chucking the recipes and just going by instinct. I’ll toss whatever I want into the slow cooker and see what happens. Needless to say, there’ll be garlic. Lots and lots of garlic…

Developing…

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53 thoughts on “ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: My First Slow Cooker Experience!

  1. You really need to subscribe to:

    http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

    She is awesome, did all slow cooking for a year, has a cookbook , and is cute on morning shows. Sorry if you already know about her! Just found your blog, now a beloved favorite, about 3 mos ago.

  2. yeah. this entire post and recipe really goes against everything a slow cooker stands for.

  3. Make pulled pork. Plus only uses the slow cooker pot!
    Rub jamaican jerk seasoning all over a pork shoulder (I like to add extra allspice & thyme), chop up an onion throw into crockpot. Add a can (or 2) of coke/pepsi (I usually end up using coke zero and is still really good). Cook on low for 8 hours. Reserve a cup of juices, put pork on cutting board and using 2 forks pull. Throw back into cooker w/ juices add BBQ sauce, warm and you’re done. Delicious sandwiches for everyone.

  4. The bland dryness of the meat is exactly why I have so many issues with the slow cooker. Everything I make in that thing tastes like that. (It has nothing to do with the high setting.)

    I’m anxiously awaiting reading about different results from you. If you can produce something simple and tasty, it’ll make me drag out my own slow cooker (same exact one as yours; I also wish there were a light or something to tell me it’s on).

  5. if you are a pork eater, this is one from my childhood:
    get pork cutlets, yes, the crappy pork, throw on salt and pepper, then cream of mushroom soup.
    then, you skin (dont have to , i like the skin) and thinly slice potatoes, throw on some drained cannned mushrooms, then more potatoes, more mushs, then top with another can of cream of mushroom mixed with like 1/4–1/2 cup water. cook for like 8 hours (while you work) then top with unlimited amounts of french fried onions, leave the top off

    Delish. If you are sodium aware, leave off the salt and get the low sodium soup. I love salt substitutes, and herbs, so spread around what you like and eat.

  6. I think the dull flavor was a result of so much liquid. 2 quarts seems like a lot for a slow cooker.

  7. I agree, knnmom. That looks like too much liquid. I’ve never had to use that much. In fact, MUCH less.
    Also, I’ve found it’s good to double spices in using a regular menu in the slow cooker. Something about the long cook time cuts the spice flavors.
    Next time use a dedicated slow cooker recipe. I’ve had great luck with mine for years.

  8. i still say , look at that blog. she got a book! there must be something interesting. Plus, i love putting food in a pot and coming home to luscious smells…i am curious about your supporters, bside,are they rabid about what you do, or just hangers on? I wonder becuz you have huge talent, and they seem restrictive to letting newcomers in.

    • As a newcomer, I was thinking the same thing lately. There’s lots of talk about promoting bside blog, but lately (especially with the new big brother stuff) there’s a lot of talk of keeping idiots out. I totally act that way in my aerobics classes too though. I hate the new people. Especially when they are all better than me with cuter outfits. Coke whores.

      • “Especially when they’re all better than me with cuter outfits.” Hahaha!

        Story of my life.

      • Can I ask where this is going down? I haven’t seen anything like what you’re describing.

        • Yeah, where? I’m brand-spanking new to the Big Brother forums (though a very long-time blog reader) and have only gotten enthusiastic responses to my posts and questions.

          • I don’t even watch Big Brother and I went over there and read the entire blog (which is confusing, by the way, if you dont’ watch the show) and all of the comments and didn’t see anything mean.

            I feel like this is a conspiracy Ben’s put a few “new” posters up to in order to stir up drama, improve ratings, and take over the world.

            Well played, Ben.

          • And, it’s working. Obviously. I’d never come back to a failed crockpot post so many times otherwise. Or read a recap of a show I’ve never watched.

            Intrigue. “This season on B-Side’s Blog….”

  9. i found you like 2 mos ago, never wanted to submit, felt scared (like danielle,shaking uncontrollably lol) but really , you need to take care of these totebag douchebags. i have one, it is like kkbs. Skinny girls do not scare me. And i an amazed at those that are. get a brain, get a heart, get a vajayJay

  10. Bside, lets collaberate on top chef, chopped, or next food netfood network star

    i just want to give ideas, i love tomatoes

  11. I was surprised you got the slow cooker! Do you think your frustrations are stemming from resentment that the slow cooker isn’t an ice cream maker?

    All joking aside, I only use my slow cooker for one-pot dishes (I agree you defeated the purpose, and yet again created resentment and frustration). I don’t do a lot of beef stuff, other than beef veggie soup or chili and I agree, beef DOES taste dryer in a slow cooker (I have good luck with chicken, though). I’ve remedied that by adding the ground beef at the end (which I always brown separately anyway, and always brown with onion, garlic, seasonings, etc.). So you might be onto something… But please don’t give up hope, yet.

    A moment of silence for the ice cream maker that might have been.

  12. Ummm, maybe next time actually pick a recipe designed for a slow cooker? #justsayin

  13. Well, so the dish wasn’t what you wanted. Keep working it and you’ll get it where you want it.

    At least your hair cut rocks!

  14. jaa1169, I to find the same treatment here from people who don’t seem to want to let you belong. As such, eh.

    B– you did over use liquid. A slow cooker never ever uses liquid as a dutch oven will. As a matter of fact you should use very little liquid. The process of slow cooking with the lid on draws moisture out of what ever you cook so When you used the amounts you did for a slow cooker.. bad results come about. Sometimes I will even prop the lid to my cooker open so a bit more liquid can evaporate.

  15. All are welcome here on this site! Feel free to comment, and if people bully, just bully back! Everyone likes a feud! But seriously, there are some very sardonic people on this blog, but everyone is largely welcoming. Don’t confuse a playful barb for an actual attack. It’s all good fun. Except for Honeybunny. She’s the worst.

    • Ha!

      B’s right. I hardly ever post over here but I “know” most of the old timers and they are all good-hearted people but with twisted humor. No one is trying to be unwelcoming. Especially that bitch, honeybunny.

    • No one be afraid of Honeybunny. She can barely even see what we’re saying about her, what with the cataracts.

    • The blog posts are a riot and nothing changes that. As for commenters, think about the posts and the audience. Gossip, Real Housewives, the Hills. If there wasn’t just a little high school drama, wouldn’t we be disappointed? BTW I’m at the cool girls’ table. Or was it the mean girls’ table? I’m sitting with the coke whores and oh yeah, we’re talking about you, honey. Or do you prefer bitch? heh

  16. I love your Adventures in Domesiticity.

    And now I want some damn pork tacos.

  17. B-side, I got that exact same slow cooker last winter, and mine came with a little bitty slow cooker for keeping sauces warm – like queso. Did you get a little one, too, or were you jipped?

  18. Here’s another blog you can check out for fun crock-pot recipes:

    http://hopealicious.blogspot.com/

    I just discovered this, so I haven’t made anything (yet) but the pics look delish!

    I’m excited to see what you try next. I have a crock-pot, but I’m sorta afraid of it. The one thing I do make is bbq meatballs for pot-luck parties. But I’m a total cheat and just buy frozen meatballs and bbq sauce. I’m hoping you’ll inspire me to try something a little more exciting!

  19. Chili is the way to go…I love making chili in a slow cooker. Sorry about the bad experience with this recipe but since it wasn’t designed for a slow cooker don’t let it put you off.

  20. I made flylady’s crock roast and it was very yummalicious and even my hubby who really doesn’t like meat because I guess his mom used to cook it until it was dry and desert-friendly, loved it!

    PS. I’m on Team Ice Cream Maker too. 😉

  21. I can’t believe this post has more comments than the season premiere of Big Brother post. Haha.

    • I’m not surprised. My grandma’s favorite saying is, “Give the people a post about a slow cooker failure, and get a fight over inclusiveness in the comment section.” I finally understand what that crazy bitch has been talking about all these years.

      • just trying to make you the #1 hit when people google “crock pot mean girls”

      • T-bag, you’re kind of on a roll today. I vote you for best posts in this ridiculousness.

    • says something about how BORING your bb post was i think more than the commentary on contemporary office politics a slow cooker stirs in people

  22. You need to start with the basics B-Side. Try finding a recipe for slow cooker baked beans. OH YUM. Then move on to bigger and better…

  23. Don’t give up on your slow cooker, B-side! I agree that you should have used a recipe exclusively for the slow cooker. Crockpot365 is a super awesome blog, with lots of great ideas as well as humorous accounts of her slow cooking trial and error.

    With the crock pot, there is something for everyone: vegetarians, meat eaters, gluten-free and so on. I love it for pea soup, navy bean soup, even lasagna. Yes, lasagna!

    Love your blog.

  24. Hey very nice blog!! Guy .. Excellent .. Superb .. I’ll bookmark your website and take the feeds also?I’m glad to search out so many useful information here within the put up, we want develop more techniques in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

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