Friday, March 6, 2009

The Essence of Slow Food

The Slow Food movement just got a lot slower at our house. Digging through my china closet I discovered, wedged in the back on the floor behind a box of glasses I rarely use, the crock pot I bought for $2.00 at a garage sale years ago and had never used.

I confess that I've been somewhat skeptical about crock pots despite several friends who swear by their virtues. I bought this one on the recommendation of my pal Sari who has a plethora of crock pots in her kitchen, more than anyone else I know.

Having recently scored two beautiful locally grass-raised lamb shanks at the Paradise Market in Corte Madera, it seemed like a fine idea finally to try out this bargain basement purchase.

Loading the crock pot with the shanks and some aromatics was the work of a moment - the recipe didn't even call for browning the shanks first - so I clapped on the lid, set it to "high" and, sure enough, in just a few minutes, steam began to collect inside the clear plastic lid, reassuring me that my garage sale find was indeed functional.

After an hour or two, we noticed a rich lamb smell in the house and that Cora had positioned herself within sight of the crock pot. What emerged nearly 8 hours later were really delicious lamb shanks, so tender that the meat was literally falling off the bone as I lifted it gingerly out with tongs. The carrots, onions, garlic, rosemary, mustard, wine and shallots had flavored the meat and their relaxed remnants made a nice, soft accompaniment to it. All I added to the contents of the crock pot was a spoonful of bright green peas. We sat down to dinner with candles and the rest of the bottle of wine that I used in the pot, and ate a leisurely meal in true Slow Food tradition.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Garlic and Rosemary by Lora Brody in Slow Cooker Cooking

Click on the link above for the recipe I used, with a few tweaks. I chose it mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand but I'd make it again in a heartbeat (or rather in 6 hours of heartbeats). The author claimed that there would be no leftovers but, in our case, there were. Two hefty lamb shanks is too much for us. I'm planning to make curry with the rest of the meat and with the juices left in the bottom of the crock pot.

Here are my tweaks: I used less garlic and added shallots, because I had less of the former and more of the latter. I also cooked it for less time than the recipe called for and, honestly, I think it would have been mush had I held out for the full 12 hours, at least in my crock pot. In fact, next time, I will try cooking it on high for 3 hours, then on low for 3 - I'm pretty sure that would be plenty.

I was on board with the Slow Food idea long before I tried cooking lamb shanks in a crock pot but I'm even more of a believer now.

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Blogger Anna Haight said...

I enjoy crock pots (as well as crackpots) too. I sometimes load the crock up at night, put it in the refrigerator, then pop it in and on just before I leave for work. When I come home, I also have delicious slow food.

Friday, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

Here I am an hour before lunch.If i wasn't hungry before I sure am now. I could just go face down in that platter!

Friday, March 06, 2009  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

I love crockpots. We have four, different sizes.
NEVER throw away the liquid that accumulates at the bottom! It is nectar. Even if you don't have a use for it right away, freeze it and enjoy later. Same goes for the magic juice in a Romertopf.

Friday, March 06, 2009  
Blogger dancingmorganmouse said...

Long slow cooking is what makes winter so wonderful. A fave dish at our house is 12-hour lamb shoulder. Brown it off, add the herbs, veg and some liquid, pop it in the oven on the next-to-lowest setting after breakfast and it will slowly fill the house with that amzaing smell and be ready for dinner.
And the cats will circle the kitchen like furry sharks :)

Friday, March 06, 2009  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Anna, I knew you liked crackpots - why else would you hang out over here?

Greg, I know that feeling! It really was good!

Cookiecrumb, yes, that stuff is pure gold. I used to have a clay pot cooker shaped like a chicken but no longer - I wonder what ever happened to it?

Morgan, I love the description of the furry sharks! Cora doesn't circle, she just puts herself directly in the path - herding breeds. :-)

Saturday, March 07, 2009  
Blogger Kitt said...

Nom! Crockpots rock.

I'd love to find a $2 one. I need one for melting beeswax. (Once you use a kitchen utensil for wax work, forget about using it for anything else.)

Saturday, March 07, 2009  

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