Sunday, May 26, 2013

minimum mess, minimum cost, maximum benefit

I was fortunate to grow up in a family of good cooks.  None were chefs or gourmet cooks or anything of the sort - they were all country folk and they cooked what they raised or found economical at the grocery store.  I married a woman who said she did not like cooking but was nevertheless a very good cook.  When we divorced after 22 years of marriage, for the first time in my life, I had nothing to eat!

So I learned to cook...

These will not all be recipes per se, some of it will be general things that applies to a lot of foods or methods.  Some of the foods might appear fattening.  I doubt that any of them are because I'm 65 years old, 5' 10", weigh about 145 pounds and have for 40 years.

Cooking meat in a crock pot:

You can cook ribs, the country style, meaty ones are best, pork chops, etc. (pork) this way:
Take them out of the package and put them directly into the crock pot.  There is no need to wash them and do not add water to the crock pot or salt.  Let them cook until the grease cooks out.  The "when" here is not critical.  Tilt the pot so you can dip out most of the liquid/grease.  You need to leave some for flavor and also to prevent the meat from drying out.  I dip this out into a coffee mug and after it cools a bit, put it in the refrigerator (more about this later).  See Excess Pot Liquid below.

Now to flavor the meat:  I use different things depending on what sounds good at time and what I have on hand.  Soy sauce is good.  Pour it liberally over the meat.  At this time you can also add potatoes and whatever other veggies you like.  With soy sauce I like potatoes and carrots.  It is a good idea to place the potatoes kind of carefully on top of the meat to prevent it drying out as it finishes cooking.  One word of caution.  Do not add a lot of veggies.  Too many will cause the entire thing to be watery.

If you like BBQ sauce - Hunt's, etc. - add water to it where the consistency is that of buttermilk - or there about.  With this I coat both sides of the meat.  You can add potatoes to this as well and they will be tasty.  Here it is absolutely critical that you don't add too many potatoes.  Just a few and the sauce will be really good.  Too many and the sauce will be watery and will kill the BBQ taste.

If you don't mind eating left overs, this is dinner for a couple nights.

One problem with the BBQ sauce is cleanup.  The sugar in the sauce makes baked on spots that is tough to clean.

Cleaning the crock pot:  Some of you might have a much better way of doing this.  If so, please post it.  I take a couple of plastic grocery bags, put one inside the other in case of leakage and then dip out everything in the bottom that is solid.  This goes in the garbage.  Next you can add some dish cleaning fluid and water to  the pot, rinse it around a bit and pour it down the drain.  Add more cleaning fluid and water and let the pot soak overnight if that doesn't bother you.  Next day you can finish cleaning pretty easily with a sponge.

You can do beef roasts the same as pork except I've never tried BBQ sauce on it.  I can't promise good results with beef.  Sometimes it will be really good; sometimes so, so and sometimes barely edible.  Of course a lot depends on the quality of the beef - I look for marbeling (Google says this is not a word - think marble), but in my opinion it is a crap shoot.  I've never had any luck with a cut that says "butt" so avoid that unless you are in a mood to experiment.

Excess Pot Liquid:
Okay, now for the stuff you dipped out of the pot.  Set this in the refrigerator after it has cooled a bit. In a few hours the grease will form a clean cap of grease on the top and below it will be a jelly like substance.  I have not figured out a good way to separate the grease from the jelly but I use both.  The grease can be used  for cooking pinto beans or anything that needs some fat added.  You can also use it for frying things such as fried potatoes.  Simply dip the grease off the top.  A little of the jelly will be on the underside but no worries. It is tasty stuff and will only add to the flavor of whatever you are cooking.  I give the jelly to my cat.  He loves it.  You can also use it in gravy.  I never do that as it gives gravy a very silky consistency - some people like that.  I don't care for it.

NOTE:  There will be more recipes in the future as time permits posting.