CARS HOMES JOBS

Slow cooker prepares two entrees at once

Tuesday, November 5, 2013
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Lime Pot Roast is adapted from Atlanta author Cynthia Graubart's cookbook, "Slow Cooking for Two: Basics, Techniques, Recipes" (Gibbs Smith, $19.99).
Lime Pot Roast is adapted from Atlanta author Cynthia Graubart's cookbook, "Slow Cooking for Two: Basics, Techniques, Recipes" (Gibbs Smith, $19.99).

Standing beside the kitchen counter of her Dunwoody, Ga., home, author Cynthia Graubart lifts two plastic bags from a slow cooker, an appliance with which she has had a long-simmering on-again, off-again affair.

First there was the avocado green Rival brand Crock-Pot that she pilfered from her mother to take to college in the early ’80s, only to discover that it made too much food and was a pain to clean. Then came the 6-quart cooker she used to make dinners for her husband and two children. After her son and daughter left for college, the empty-nester didn’t banish the slow cooker, but she often found she had too many leftovers.

Behold the 31⁄2-quart slow cooker, the one from which Graubart is now removing a pair of pot roasts glistening in gravy. This smaller device was the inspiration for her new book, “Slow Cooking for Two: Basics, Techniques, Recipes” (Gibbs Smith, $19.99) — which happened to hit stores just as she was savoring the 2013 James Beard Award she won for “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” (Gibbs Smith, $45), co-authored with her longtime friend and collaborator Nathalie Dupree.

After “Mastering,” which weighed in at 6 pounds, 722 pages, “Slow Cooking” is a return to simplicity and economy. But with 100 recipes for the likes of Cornish Hen in Port Wine and Fig Preserves, Smoky Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup and Mushroom Risotto, there is no shortage of flavor and sophistication.

SURPRISINGLY VERSITILE

Though the slow cooker has long been the province of the earthy cuisine that transpires when stews and soups are left to simmer gently day and night, Graubart imbues her pot with surprising versatility. She even devises a way for the slow cooker to work like an oven.

In her magic pot, banana bread is “baked” in mini loaf pans perched on a cookie cutter or Mason jar ring. Ramekins of vanilla custard are firmed in a bain-marie. Salmon is steamed in foil. Meatloaf is hoisted out of the pot in a foil “sling.” Even crunchy granola gets slow-cooker treatment.

“It’s the best device for cooking something unattended, and that’s a really liberating thing,” says Graubart, who rediscovered the slow cooker while working on the voluminous “Mastering.” But the family-size recipes were often too much for her and her husband, Cliff. So she scaled them back for two. To save time, she also came up with a genius plan for cooking two meals at once.

For her so-called “double dinners,” she uses plastic slow-cooker liners (available in the grocery-store aisle alongside the sandwich bags and tinfoil) to make two dishes simultaneously. Bottom round roasts, flank steaks, pot roasts and pork tenderloins: All are sliced in half, placed in separate liners with the remaining ingredients and cooked in the same pot. One dish is meant to be eaten at once, the other saved for later.

This brings us back to the plastic bags that Graubart is gingerly untucking from her slow cooker, taking care not to spill the liquid.

Inside Liner No. 1 is Lime Pot Roast, a variation of Dupree’s now classic lemon-lime pot roast, which here calls for lime zest and juice, tomatoes, garlic and not much else. Inside Liner No. 2: Vinegar-Braised Pot Roast, seasoned with balsamic, rosemary and strong coffee.

I take a bite. Both are scrumptious.

Since the dinners are cooked in separate bags, you may also mix and match proteins: perhaps a roast in one liner, a tenderloin in another. The double-dinner concept has been so well received that it spawned a sequel: Graubart is now finishing up “Slow Cooking for Two: Double Dinners,” due out from Gibbs Smith in the spring.

Recipes below are adapted from “Slow Cooking for Two: Basics, Techniques, Recipes” by Cynthia Graubart (Gibbs-Smith, $19.99)

DOUBLE DINNER: LIME POT ROAST AND VINEGAR-BRAISED POT ROAST

Hands on: 15 minutes; total time: 8 hours, 15 minutes Serves: 4 (each roast makes 2 generous portions)

This recipe shows off Graubart’s clever concept of cooking two separate dinners at once. Slow-cooker liner bags are the trick.

For the Lime Pot Roast:

1⁄2 of a 2-pound to 21⁄2-pound chuck roast

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated rind of 1 lime, no white attached

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or bottled lime juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup beef broth

1⁄2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1 small (141⁄2 -ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Place chuck roast in the bottom of a slow-cooker liner bag. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Add lime zest, lime juice, garlic, beef broth, Italian seasoning and tomatoes to the bag on top of roast and set aside.

For the Vinegar-Braised Pot Roast:

1⁄2 of a 2-pound to 21⁄2-pound chuck roast

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 small onion, sliced

1⁄2 cup strong coffee

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 sprigs rosemary, or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

Place chuck roast in the bottom of a slow-cooker liner bag. Sprinkle liberally with salt and black pepper. Add onion, coffee, balsamic vinegar and rosemary on top of roast and set aside.

Place both liner bags, side by side, into the slow cooker. Drape each liner (closed) away from the other, extending over the sides of the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

When ready to serve: Place two large serving dishes next to the slow cooker. Remove cover and using pot holders or oven mitts, carefully transfer each bag to its own serving bowl. Open the liner, and allow contents to cool slightly. Remove meat from the liner using tongs, and transfer to the serving bowl. Pour juices over the dish.

Repeat with the other dinner. Before serving, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: If you wish to save one of the dinners for later, place in a resealable plastic freezer bag, label and freeze. If you plan to eat it within a day or two, you may store in the refrigerator in a closed container or resealable plastic bag.

APPLE CRISP

Hands on: 15 minutes; total time: 2 hours, 15 minutes Serves: 2-4

This crisp is easy and delicious and stays warm in the pot until you are ready to serve it. Preferably with ice cream.

2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped

5 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

Pinch of ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes

1⁄2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Vanilla ice cream for topping (if desired)

Coat the inside of a 31⁄2-quart slow cooker with cooking spray, if desired. Add apples. In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, cornstarch, ground ginger and 1⁄4 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples. Drizzle lemon over ingredients and stir.

For the topping: In a small bowl, stir together the flour, the remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, brown sugar, remaining 1⁄4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the nutmeg. Using fingers or two forks, work the butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over the apples. Top with nuts.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Test to be sure apples are tender. Uncover and cook to crisp the topping, up to 30 minutes. Serve warm, topped with ice cream if desired.

KALE AND KIELBASA SOUP

Hands on: 10 minutes; total time: 7 hours, 10 minutes Serves: 2 plus

This stew-y soup calls for turkey kielbasa. Feel free to try other kinds of sausage.

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1⁄4 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1 sprig fresh rosemary, or 1⁄4 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 cup chicken broth

1⁄2 cup chopped fresh tomatoes, or canned diced tomatoes

7 ounces turkey kielbasa, cut into 1⁄2-inch slices

1-2 cups chopped fresh kale

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Grated or shredded Parmesan cheese, optional.

Coat the inside of a 31⁄2-quart slow cooker with cooking spray, if desired. Add the beans, onion, garlic, rosemary, chicken broth, tomatoes, kielbasa and kale. Stir well to mix. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. When ready to serve, remove rosemary sprig, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top individual bowls of soup with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

 
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