It doesn’t matter that Chicago is experiencing an apocalyptic “un-winter,” where daytime temperatures have been considerably higher than freezing, bordering on spring-like. It doesn’t matter that a year ago, the city (including my car) was buried under several feet of snow. And it definitely doesn’t matter that I haven’t wiped out once on a patch of devious black ice, since it hasn’t been cold enough for small puddles to freeze over. It’s only a matter of time before old-man winter hits hard again, and until I’m hitting the pavement hard again.
When you live in a place where the climate sucks for approximately 2/3 of the year, you can either sulk about it, or you can embrace it. Using a slow cooker is one of my ways of accepting the cold weather. What could be simpler or more satisfying? Brown up a tough cut of meat on the stove, saute a few aromatic veggies like carrots and onions, add some liquid and seasoning, and turn the knob to low. Go to work, where you absolutely, definitely do not worry about the electrical cord of the slow cooker malfunctioning. Causing fiery sparks to fly all over your apartment. Igniting kitchen towels, your greasy stove, and everything else within a 25 foot radius. Leading to a massive fire that takes down your entire apartment complex. Including your brand new 42-inch plasma screen. And everything else in your uninsured abode. No. You don’t worry about this. You don’t worry, because the inner dish of a slow cooker is usually made of glazed ceramic or porcelain, encased in metal. The slow cooker is self-contained, and cannot light on fire. Plus, you know better than to plug in a cord if the plastic casing has been compromised, or if the inner wires are popping out all willy nilly.
So, go to work. Come home 8-10 hours later, open the door and become instantly enveloped in the warm, inviting, delicious aromas of dinner. Prepare a simple side dish, if necessary. Or just sit down to a hearty meal. Who cares about the frigid outside world when you come home to a welcome like that?
I made Guinness-Braised Lamb Shanks for my friend, Meghan. She was coming over on a weeknight, so being able to use the slow cooker made dinner a breeze, even though I got home from work late. The recipe is from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson. It’s a fabulous book that goes beyond the typical chilis and stews that are commonplace in slow cooking. It includes recipes like Portuguese Sausage and Shellfish Stew and Osso Bucco, and many recipes include mouth-watering photos of the finished dishes. The book fittingly ends with 22 desserts that you can make in your Crock Pot. I’m curious – have you even used your slow cooker to make dessert?
Although I haven’t made all 150 of the recipes, this lamb dish most definitely makes my personal list of best slow cooker recipes. The meat fell right off the bone, tender and flavorful, and the braising liquid was delicious spooned over chive laced mashed potatoes.
I’m giving winter the middle finger and giving this book away to one of you!
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post about your favorite slow cooker recipe. You can earn an additional entry by following me on Twitter (@bethylou10) and sending me a tweet about slow cooking. You’ll also earn an entry if you subscribe to this blog – just leave another comment to let me know you’ve signed up. Finally, refer a friend who subscribes (again, give me details in a comment so it’s accounted for), and you’ll both have another chance to win! This giveaway is open until 11:47 pm on Monday, February 13. Why 11:47? Well, why not?!? A winner will be generated by random.org, and I’ll send you this fabulous cookbook! Yay!
This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Sylvia, the proud new recipient of The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson! Email me your address and I’ll send the book out to you ASAP!