Slow cooking is a blessing for busy people, we’ve talked and I’ve demonstrated quite a few recipes in our “Evening Meals Classes”. I’ve shown them how to prep everything and get it ready for the slow cooker. Then I pull out one I prepared earlier for them to eat. Ha Love Saying That! “Here’s One I Prepared Earlier”
Many students have mentioned that they needed some help with developing flavours in the slow cooker. A lot have opted to use shop bought sauces because without them the depth of flavour isn’t quite there. I have shown many of my slow-cooked recipes in these classes, without the use of shop bought sauces and they’ve been a huge hit.
So how do I get flavour in my slow-cooked food?
First of all, I want to say you don’t necessarily have to own a slow cooker to slow cook food. If you have something that you can safely and consistently cook at 145 – 150 ºc a for a high-temperature slow cook or 85 – 90 ºc for a low-temperature slow cook, then you might be in business.
Since my renovation, I’ve passed my slow cooker on to someone that might use it more. I now use my Breville smart oven which has a slow cook function. Although slow cookers are brilliant, and you don’t have to pay a lot for them (if that’s all you want it to do). Slow cookers are reasonably priced and I’m sure you can get one to suit your budget. There are some available for under $50 and paying double or triple that doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily better as a slow cooker if we’re talking about just that function.
Anyway, I chose to use this little “Smart Oven by Breville” because it does so many things and if it’s out on the bench because I use it just about every day, I didn’t feel the need to keep the slow cooker, it was taking up valuable space in my pantry. You can use any oven but this one is probably cheaper to run. You can make this dish in anything that you can slow cook in. You can do it in a pressure cooker too, but I chose to slow cook this meal because I had time in the morning and not at night.
Here are a few slow cooker tips you may not know about.
- Thickening Sauces: When I use meat in the slow cooker like Osso Bucco, I tend to dust it in seasoned flour. That way, while the meal is cooking it’s busy creating its own sauce. That’s why the flour is there yeah! Or there’s another trick of making a “Beurre Manie”. Pronounced “burr mahn yay” A Beurre Manie is a French cooking term for a mix of 50/50 flour and butter kneaded together to form a sort of paste. I make up this paste then roll it into a log and place it in the freezer to have when I need it.
You can usually find it in my freezer throughout the winter months because it’s so easy and convenient to have on hand. Here’s how to use it. If you find you have too much liquid in your dish, near the end or at the end of cooking you remove some of the liquid (around a cup) to a frying pan, cut off a knob of Beurre Manie and throw it into the pan. Cook it till the sauce thickens then add it back to the main pot and mix to combine. As the butter melts, the flour will thicken the soupy liquid without causing lumps. Brilliant hey! The ratio is about one tablespoon of Beurre Manie for every cup of cooking juices.
- Browning ingredients: If you want to develop flavour in your dish, you need to brown your meat. You know that rich, deep flavour we all love from slow cooked food. When you buy a premade sauce, they use all sorts of flavour enhancers in the mix. If you just chuck meat and veg in your slow cooker, you may not be happy with the results. So, do like me and spend a few minutes of browning. And I brown my veg a bit, that will help intensify the flavours too. Season as you go remember.
- Tomato paste: should be cooked or roasted in a frypan before adding to the slow cooker. This will reduce that metallic flavour that you can get from “straight out of the pack tomato paste”, so after the meat do the tomato paste if it’s in your ingredient list.
- When to prepare: You can always prepare some of the raw materials the night before if you don’t have a lot of time in the morning. In a perfect world, the ingredients going into your slow cooker should be at room temperature, so get up, take what you’ve organised for the slow cooker out of the fridge, get ready for work. Just before you leave for the day set everything in place for your low-temperature slow cook.
- Oils and Fats: Don’t use any additional oil and you can remove any excess fat from the meat before you add it to the slow cooker. But leave a bit on, you know fat is flavour right! Let’s just be a bit healthy about it if the meat has loads of fat on it.
- Liquid and Stocks: Don’t add any extra liquid to your slow cooker unless you’re making soup. If you have a recipe that is typically cooked on the stove top where you might simmer it for an hour or so, and it calls for 500ml to a litre of Stock, just leave it out if you’re planning on using the slow cooker instead of an open pot on the stove top. When you cook at a more rapid pace the liquid will evaporate but in your slow cooker it’s got nowhere to go, and you’ll end up with it being too wet. There’s a lot of liquid in the ingredients your adding to your slow cooker, like onions, carrot, celery etc. this liquid slowly releases from the food and ends up as a sauce.
- Using a lid: Don’t keep removing the lid to stir or check it out. This will significantly increase the cooking time. Every time you open the lid, you’re letting the heat escape, and it relies on this heat to be of an even nature to cook in time. If you’re using your oven like I do you need to use a pot with a lid or foil tightly fitted around the rim.
- What’s the best equipment for the job: I know some slow cookers have the choice of slow high and low, but I prefer to do the low. I figure the reason I have chosen to use the slow cooker is that I’ve selected a cut of meat or things that I want at the end of a busy day. I think the low and slow method works better. Otherwise, you may as well choose to cook it on the stove top right!
- Choose the right ingredients: Most of the cheaper cuts will work fine in a slow cooker but don’t go thinking that if you choose fillet steak “because it’s an expensive cut” that it will be better. Fillet steak doesn’t have enough of the qualities to warrant slow cooking, it’s best for faster cooking and the longer you cook it the dryer and tougher it will get. You need to pick a meat that will benefit from low and slow cooking. Different countries have different names for meat cuts so here’s a link to an Aussie site with cuts you’ll know. Apart from that if you don’t know what the best cuts are, then ask your butcher. They love you to ask them, otherwise their just checkout chicks. Right!! Ahahaaa
- 2 Tbs EVOO (extra virgin Olive Oil)
- ½ onion or 1 small onion
- 1 celery stick
- 1 carrot (small
- 1 garlic clove
- 500 g Osso Bucco
- 3 tomato vine-ripened Roma are nice
- 5 pcs sun-dried tomato
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Heat a frypan on a medium-high heat and start your slow cooker to heat up
- Prepare and slice your onion and add to the frypan along with some EVOO
- Prepare the celery and add
- Prepare the carrot and add
- prepare the garlic and add
- Keep an eye on the pan and stir when needed
- Weigh out the flour into a bowl and season with salt and pepper mix to combine
- Dredge the Osso Bucco into the flour mixture to coat on all sides
- Remove the mirepoix "onion celery carrot etc" from the frying pan and add it to your slow cooker
- add a bit more EVOO to your pan and add your meat. Brown on both sides
- chop your tomatoes
- remove the meat from the frying pan when browned on both sides adding it to the slow cooker
- Add the tomatoes to the frying pan and use them to deglaze the pan
- Add the remainder of the ingredients to the slow cooker along with the tomatoes and set for 8 hrs. or the longest setting on your slow cooker.
To serve why not make a Gremolata to freshen the flavours up.
Learn more about what an onion or two can do for your dish