Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Back to Cookbook-ing...

So when I made up our menu plan for the next two weeks, I pulled out our new slow cooker cookbook and picked several recipes from it to try... We tried the first one on Sunday and another tonight and so even though I neglected to take pictures, I thought I'd share with you about these two recipes and then hopefully I'll remember to take pictures for the rest :) The cookbook we're working out of is by America's Test Kitchen, one of my favorite resources for recipes and tips. I love their TV show and usually their recipes, so when I saw this cookbook, I knew I just had to have it for my collection! The cookbook is Slow Cooker Revolution.

Now, the first recipe we tried, from page 64, was for Beef Stroganoff. Let me say that I'm a stroganoff fanatic, BUT I have my own preferences when it comes to the beefy, mushroomy goodness that is that dish. This recipe was good, but not one I'd make again.  First of all, the prep work for it takes quite a bit of time between browning mushrooms, sauteing aromatics, cutting up meat, etc. and then 9-11 hours in the slow cooker. It also has wine in it which sometimes I enjoy, but to me it gave the stroganoff an "off" flavor, like it was trying to be more of a stew and less stroganoff. I make a stew called Red Wine Stew and this dish came out somewhat of a cross between a good stroganoff and that stew...jack-of-all-trades, master of none.  It also involves dried mushrooms which most people don't keep on hand and while I agree that the addition of them probably kept the mushroom taste in the dish, don't think they rescued it in any way. Now, honestly I didn't enjoy the dish that much the first night, hot out of the crock, but the next day, as leftovers, with a little extra sour cream tossed on top, it was actually better in my opinion than it was the first night. As I said though, not something I'll be making again, especially since I enjoy my own recipe so much more... And since I won't be making it again, I'm not going to share the recipe here :) If you want to try it yourself, you'll have to get the book!

The second recipe we tried was tonight's supper and it was FABULOUS! Even my 11.5 month old loved it, and she isn't big on potatoes as a rule. My almost-3-yr-old also loved it, even with the bacon in it, and she usually doesn't like bacon! And of course hubby and I liked it.  It DOES make a big batch and I don't know how well it would freeze, so I would probably consider either cutting it in half next time, making sure we have company or trying to freeze it. This time we'll just eat the leftovers :)  This recipe I'll share with you, along with my alteration (because I can never leave well enough alone!) As with the previous recipe, this one had a little prep work, but nothing as involved. It does, however, require frying bacon on the stove, so make sure you have a splatter guard handy or be willing to clean up the spatter...

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Recipe By     : America's Test Kitchen
Serving Size  : 6    

8 ounces bacon -- chopped
1 onion -- minced
2 cloves garlic -- minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme -- or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 pounds russet potatoes -- peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
3 scallions -- sliced thin

Cook bacon on stove top in a skillet until crisp. Drain, reserving 2 tbsp of the fat and cool bacon pieces. Refrigerate for later use in topping soup. Meanwhile, in reserved fat, saute onions, garlic and thyme until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add flour, whisking to incorporate thoroughly. Cook for 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth, making sure to scrape up any of the browned bits in the pan. Pour all of this into the crock. Add potatoes and remaining broth. Cook on low for 4-6 hrs or until potatoes are tender. Once tender, transfer 2 cups of the potatoes to a bowl and mash until smooth. Add cream to this. Mix shredded cheese into soup to melt, reserving 1/2 cup or so for topping. Add mashed potato mixture back in and stir to combine. Heat through, about 5 more minutes. While heating, microwave bacon bits from earlier prep for 20-30 seconds until warm. Serve soup with bacon bits, reserved cheese and scallions.

  "Slow Cooker Revolution"

My notes: 

I did NOT peel the potatoes since in my opinion the peel is part of what I like about baked potatoes. This worked just fine. I also did not remove the potatoes to mash until smooth. Instead I took my manual potato masher and just mashed up the soup in the crock before adding the cheese and cream. I also added another cup of broth to the soup since it was very thick and I didn't want it to burn in the crock while on "warm" waiting for hubby to get home from work... This was by far the best crockpot potato soup I've made. I didn't have scallions on hand so didn't use them and think I might consider adding a dollop of sour cream to the top sometime...