I recently retired my trusty old 6 quart crockpot. The earth toned workhorse, embellished with 1970's era herb illustrations, was a hand-me-down when I got it well over a decade ago. It made countless batches, of chili, white bean soup, and tomato sauce. Admittedly, it looked a little homely sitting on my counter but I saw no reason to replace it until a recent discussion with a friend who started talking about lead in old crockpot glazes. I wrote to the manufacturer a number of times and was never able to get a definitive answer regarding the safety of my trusty old crockpot so, with only a little regret, it has been replaced by a guaranteed lead free slow cooker which is very spiffy as it comes with interchangable, nesting stoneware cooking vessels in three different sizes which makes this thing suitable for anything from a small pot of slow cooked morning oatmeal to a vat of chili for a crowd. How cool is that? Of course it's a little spare looking without the groovy 70's color scheme but I can trade that for lead free glazes any day.
Those of you reading this who manage just fine without yet another kitchen device might wonder what all the fuss is about. What's wrong with a soup pot and a stove? Nothing. Nothing at all, assuming one is home to watch over the soup pot. But there is something truly wonderful in being able to throw dinner together in the morning and walk away, knowing that a tasty meal will be waiting at the end of the day. Or to set up a pot of oatmeal at bedtime and know that there will be a warm, slow cooked breakfast, even on busy mornings.
I used to only use it during the week when I work from 6-9 pm but in recent years I've found the slow cooker to be quite versatile as well as providing a depth of flavor that I really enjoy. I've written about using it for tomato sauce. Chutney works just as well. And recently I've found that slow cooking chicken necks for 15 or more hours makes a fantastic chicken broth. A slow cooker uses less energy than stovetop cooking, it's nearly impossible to burn properly prepared food, and it doesn't heat up the kitchen. What's not to like?
I wanted to share with you the maiden voyage meal as it was delicious. I'd had an itch to try making a Cuban style arroz con pollo but was set on using only what I had on hand which meant chicken breasts, leftover rice, and lots of CSA bell peppers. None of the recipes I looked at quite fit the bill so I just went freestyle and what I came up with was a keeper. If 4/5 of this family like a dish, I am doing well and that was how this was received. The trick was pureeing all those Vitamin C filled peppers along with tomatoes in the blender. My kids won't touch peppers if they know they're there but don't have refined enough palates to recognize them by taste alone. I'm calling it Mas o Menos Arroz con Pollo as I doubt it would be recognized as such by an actual Cuban person but I'm OK with that because it's good stuff!