Summer Slow-Cooking: How to Up Your Grill Game
We have reached part three of our series on summer slow-cooking. You can catch up on part one and part two. So far, we’ve found a way to keep our kitchen cool by turning off that oven, and we’ve found a great trick for cooking bone-in and tougher cuts of meat. So for part three, I want to share how to cook items that complement what you are making on the grill (which is most likely meat, fish or some other protein). So for my final benefit (sniff!):
You can easily cook larger quantities of accompaniments that go well with whatever you have on the grill.
Meat and fish on the grill are tasty, but don’t you often find that you have something you need to cook alongside that item to make it perfect? Think garlic mushrooms for a burger party or onions and peppers to top grilled sausages or fajitas. When I’m grilling outside, the last thing I want to do is run back and forth between the outdoor grill and the indoor stove for the same meal. I dream of the day when I have a big enough grill to fit my skillets right next to the grilling meats. But most of us don’t have that luxury on a standard-size grill, especially if we are making dinner for a crowd. The slow cooker comes to the rescue! It will do an excellent job sauteing large quantities of vegetables for you, making barbecuing while entertaining that much easier.
I grew up eating some form of fajita or taco or meat stuffed into a tortilla, and the first dinner party I threw as an adult was a fajita party. In fact, probably the first 10 dinner parties I threw were fajita parties (and if I may say, I am a bit of a fajita connoisseur). So it was in making all those fajitas for a crowd that I started experimenting with ways to cook all those peppers and onions with less fuss. Enter: the slow cooker! So the starter recipe this week is my Slow-Cooker Peppers and Onions for Fajitas.
Slice your veggies just slightly larger than you normally would, as they will get slightly softer from a slow-cooker saute because of the extra condensation (that would normally evaporate in a skillet). (Note: Onions will hold their shape more if you slice them with the grain, not against it. In other words, slice tip to root, not crossways.)
Layer your veggies with the firmest, thickest ones on the bottom of the slow-cooker insert and the most-delicate ones on the top.
To encourage a golden color, you can pre-toss the veggies with a tiny pinch of sugar.
Cook on high for about 2 hours, or low for 3 to 4 hours. Unlike many slow-cooker recipes that almost cannot be overcooked, slow-cooker-sauteed veggies can get fairly soft if overcooked.
Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice on the veggies before serving, as that will brighten up the flavors and keep the veggies from tasting too “stewed.”
Note: If you want to use frozen veggies, know that the resulting texture will be softer than standard sauteed vegetables (which can be a good thing!). Just add a dash more of acid (citrus or vinegar), a little heat (red pepper flakes or chipotle chili powder) and a dab of honey, and call it a relish or chutney instead.
Our summer slow-cooker series just flew by! Before I leave you alone with your inserts, I want to share a couple of final slow-cooker tips for slow-cooking in general: First, resist the temptation to keep opening the lid, as you will lose heat (and the cooking is already, well, slow to begin with, right?). Yes, check on your food if needed, but do it only occasionally, and minimize the time the lid is off. Second, for those times when even “slow-cooking” isn’t slow enough (such as when you have a long workday), you can usually buy an extra hour of cook time by loading up the insert the night before and storing it in the fridge. While most slow-cooker recipes have a fairly flexible window of time before the food is actually overcooked, a chilled insert and ingredients will add a bit more.