Slow Cookin’

Reader Contribution by Laura Damron
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My slow cooker is easily 15 years old or more. It’s not much to look at, and it only has three settings: Off, Low and High. But you know what? It’s pretty darn close to perfect. It does everything I want it to do, namely cook things evenly and thoroughly, without much help from me at all. I set it up, walk away … and 6 to 8 hours later, we have a perfectly cooked dinner (and leftovers, if I do it right) ready to go on the table. All from one pot!

Aside from being convenient, using a slow cooker is also cost effective. Dried grains and beans are nutritious and inexpensive. Soups can easily be scaled to last for several meals. Stew takes inexpensive cuts of meat and cooks them to tender perfection. And then there’s stock … any time we get a rotisserie chicken, I break out the slow cooker afterwards and toss the carcass in for stock. Talk about bang for your buck!

Some meats, like pot roasts, benefit from searing prior to going into the slow cooker. Other foods, like stew meat or chicken, can just go right in the cooker along with whatever veggies you’re using. The food safety police would probably frown on my saying so, but when running late I’ve been known to put frozen meat in the pot to cook without thawing it first. I’m not sure on the official safety of that, but we’re not dead yet so I’ll keep doing it. (It’s going to cook for 8 hours anyway, so really … I don’t see a problem – otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. I’ve had food poisoning before, so I take my food safety seriously.)

Last night, we had rabbit stew for dinner, courtesy of the slow cooker. I think stewing is a great way to cook rabbit; since it’s such a lean protein, it has a tendency to toughen up while cooking. If you don’t have rabbit, feel free to sub in chicken thighs instead, but make sure to remove the skin before cooking, so things don’t get all greasy.

Easy Slow Cooker Rabbit Stew for Two

Rabbit legs, front and back (or four chicken thighs, skin removed)
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
4 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
3 stalks celery, 1/2-inch diced
1 small onion, 1/2-inch diced
5 medium mushrooms, quartered (I use the brown Cremini, but white ones are fine too)
1 cup water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons corn starch, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup frozen peas
Rice or egg noodles, cooked as directed on packaging

Combine the first 10 ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 6 hours, or on low for 8. Check the meat and/or carrots for doneness before serving, to make sure everything is cooked through to your satisfaction. Once you know it’s all cooked, taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

Put the frozen peas in about 30 minutes before serving (less if you thaw them first). Ladle the veggies and meat over your favorite cooked rice or egg noodles, and enjoy.

Seriously, it’s that easy … to the point where it’s almost embarrassing to type it out and call it a recipe.

Oh, one thing: I left the legs on the bone, but if you wanted to de-bone them first, you can. I prefer using meats with bones because they add extra nutrients during the cooking process, but sometimes I do have to fish them out if the meat gets really tender and falls apart. (These legs did not fall apart; I served them whole and on the bone.) It’s not a big deal for large bones like legs and such, but it can be a pain – and possibly a choking hazard – when there are little bones involved.  

What’s your favorite slow-cooker dish?


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