Flash: Working Mom Tries to Keep it Together: Buys Crock Pot

Technically the word to use today is “slow cooker.” That keeps us "highly educated" "too much time in therapy" types from acknowledging that we are actually in some ways like our mothers.

My mom was not a big fan of many kitchen appliances, but that was mostly because she was not very interested in cooking. But she did have a crock-pot. It was avocado green, tall and round, and I can’t remember a thing that she made in it. Maybe we used it to keep cider hot at a Halloween party.

Cuisinart saved me from the ‘70’s style appliance. They’ve produced a sleek, professional looking contraption of polished chrome that fits perfectly with my Russell Hobbes electric teakettle. My plan is to find “some other place” for it, but for now it boldly hogs a good section of my kitchen counter. I’m compelled to use it to justify the amount of space it takes up.

Design wasn’t the only criteria for choosing the Cuisinart crock- pot (I mean slow-cooker). I did a thorough search on line, reading lots of Amazon reviews, until I came across an article by Jill Hunter Pellettieri in Slate that actually gave a rundown of some of the crock pots on the market. According to the Pellettieri, the Cuisinart “wins the prize” for cooking, ease of use, design, taste, and value. That clinched it.

So far I’ve had successes and failures. The Husband insists that the soups have been the best. I made a split pea soup that came out rich and delicious. I made an Italian White Bean Soup from Marcella Hazan that was pretty good (though some of the beans were more tender than others). I’ve also made an okay chicken with wine and a pretty good pot roast (though I will definitely use chuck next time).

The biggest problem for me seems to be figuring out how much liquid to add, how long to set the timer for, and what level of heat to set it at (low or high). According to the directions, if you set the thing on “high” it will cook the food to some safe temperature and then continue the rest of the time on “low.” After the timer is finished it will then automatically set itself to warm, keeping the food hot until you come home hungry.

I tried to make a lentil soup, but the minute I came in the door I could smell that the poor things were running out of water. Some were crunchy and it was even crispy around the edges. Then there was the second attempt at pea soup, a sad, sad story. I thought I would cook the pea on low all day, to make sure there wasn’t a repeat of the lentil saga. We all came home hungry, but the hard little pea pebbles were still sunk in a big puddle of water. I took the peas out of the pot and tried to cook them over the stove. Two days later they still weren’t done. You can only imagine the frustration.

On Monday, however, the thing redeemed itself. I sautĂ©ed some onion, celery and carrot, threw that in with some smoked, sliced ham shanks, black-eyed peas and water. I started it out on high and let it cook for hours and hours. I wasn’t trusting it with legumes, so I had already decided that this meal was going to be for the next night. For the next few days we ate the most scrumptious black-eyed peas over rice. The vegetables had cooked into an incredibly tasty sauce. The smoked shank meat fell off the bone, giving nice chunky pieces of ham to go along with the incredibly tender peas. It was a triumph.