Adventures in Slow Cooking

Reader Contribution by Greg Carbone and Backyard Farmer
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Soup’s on … or is it?

My family may live in the garden state, but there is not much edible gardening going on in January. Right now our edible gardens are bare except for a few lacinato kale plants that stand tall like guards over sacred grounds. With sunshine so minimal, there is little to draw us outside. Now we know why so many animals hibernate through winter!

Still, we press on by filling our evenings with activities by the fire and our weekends with as much outside time as possible. It is on those weekends that we value our slow cooker more than ever. Our shiny machine quietly goes about its day, turning various mixtures of great ingredients into aromatic pots of amazement. It is our silent sous chef!

Last weekend, we planned a full day outside in what the local weather person called “abundant sunshine.” We knew we needed to slow cook something amazing in order to enjoy our day and avoid coming home “hangry.” There is nothing worse than trying to make a meal when tired and hungry!

So in went some locally-made sausage that we browned in a pan and deglazed with red wine. Not too much meat, but enough to add flavor and satisfying goodness. Next we added 13 different types of beans — hey, 13 is a lucky number in many parts of the world. Then the broth, diced tomatoes, and a multitude of dried herbs from our gardens. The final ingredient would be the aforementioned, backyard-grown kale. We usually throw it in during the last hour of cooking.

What an amazing day of sun and fun! We got much needed fresh air and some natural vitamin D from our friend in the sky. All the while, each of us — youngest to oldest — thought of the aromas that would welcome us upon arrival home. There is nothing like the warm hug those slow-cooker smells give you after a day outside.

As we opened our mudroom door, we took in breaths so deep we thought we would collapse the very walls of our home. Our nostrils were ready to rejoice. One big breath, then another, and another. Wait, where is the aroma? Smaller, quick breaths followed. We all headed to the kitchen, expecting to see that our slow cooker was stolen by hungry thieves or a local bear that refused to hibernate.

Nope. We found it sitting on our kitchen counter looking much like we had left it. Once the initial shock wore off, we realized the slow cooker was cooked. At some point it simply stopped working, and our dinner was ruined. Our silent sous chef quit without giving notice! Thankfully, some scrambled eggs and whole grain toast saved the day and allowed us to enjoy a healthy satisfying “breakfast for dinner.”

Has your slow cooker ever died without giving notice?

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