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Fast Magical Fixes for Your Slow-Cooker
I like to give the objects in my life names. My station wagon is named Louise (as in: "Please start, Louise"). My rocking chair from childhood is named Baby (as in: "Why is it when Mommy sits down in Baby and relaxes with a nice quiet book, everybody suddenly wants a glass of milk in a Cars 2 cup with a straw?"). My slow cooker is named Sanchez. This is because the first authentically delicious dinner I ever made in it was an adobe-covered pork shoulder that I shredded with a fork and served on warm corn tortillas with a homemade mango salsa. This is also because I need to thank my slow cooker for nourishing my kids and saving my dinners on a daily basis. "Thank you, Sanchez!" sounds a lot better than "Thank you West Bend 5-Quart Oblong-Shaped Slow Cooker."
There was another time, however, when Sanchez and I did not connect. For one long painful year, I made about 52 dishes (one per week) in it, all of which tasted the same. There was tender bland saddle with gravy, tender bland saddle with white wine, bits of tender bland saddle with garlic and mushrooms, and whole tender bland saddle with egg noodles. Some weekends, I would even invite guests over and brag about how easy using a slow cooker was—"Guys, you can sit around drinking wine and cracking jokes with your friends, and when it's time to eat, you just open up the cooker and slop it onto your plates!" But there was always that illuminating moment when we all had sat down, bit into our first forkful of so-called meat and chewed and chewed and chewed, trying to discover any taste in the food at all or any polite adjective that we could use besides "bleck!." Occasionally, I would ask brightly, "Who want seconds?" just to watch the whole table gasp in horror and look guilty down at their still full plates.
It wasn't as though I was in denial about my slow cooker fiascos. I simply had no solution. My life is too insane to spend long hours at the stove, where things catch of fire if you don't pay attention. So I approached the problem the way I do when I have to fix the DVD player—I plugged in a bunch of stuff. I tried ingredients after ingredient into the slow cooker, as well as called in some experts, trying to figure out what kind of foods not just bring out the flavor of dish, but also amp it up to downright delectable. The 7 magical answers (here) will surprise you.
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