Slow Cooker Week – Day 6, Slow Baked Apples

While you’re reading this I’ll be in Florida! A friend of mine is getting married and she and her husband have decided to do a destination wedding at Disney World. Three of us, motivated by either love of the open road or thrift, have decided to drive all the way down to Orlando, starting early (early) Friday morning. It should be quite the journey and we already have plans to check out Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah. Everything else is up in the air.

Cored Apples

Mmmm, apples. So delicious. I couldn’t resist conjuring up something in the ol’ crock pot with apples; and the sweeter the better! Crisps are delicious baked fruit dessert with many excellent candidates to take on the starring role, but there is a cool twist you can take with apples, using the fruit itself as the dish. This is a twist off an excellent Alton Brown recipe, who I must credit for this idea. Very delicious.

Slow Cooker Baked Apples Ready To Go Slow Cooker Baked Apples

Slow Cooker Apple Crisp
This recipe makes plenty of filling for 6 apples. You can scale it back if you’d like or just sprinkle over.

4-6 firm baking apples (Granny smith, Braeburn, etc)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 stick cold butter; diced
5 teaspoons honey
1 cup apples juice

Cut a thin layer off the bottom of the apples so they sit flat. Do the same with the top and peel a third of the way down. Rub the exposed parts with lemon juice so it doesn’t brown. Core the apples without going all the way through (don’t lose any sleep if you do). Hollow it out a bit for the stuffing.

Combine the remaining ingredients except the apple juice and work in your hands until everything is combined and the butter is in loose clumps in a sandy mixture. Stuff the apples with your filling until overflowing and place in your slow cooker. Sprinkle your remaining filling over the apples, followed by the apple juice. Cook covered on low for 4-6 hours, until the apples are tender. Serve hot, chilled or at room temperature. Enjoy.

Is it sophisticated or just pretentious to call something by its natural, but foreign name? I’m not sure but I do know a dolma by any other name is still delicious. I was introduced to these delectable morsels at a friends going-away dinner in northwest DC and I was hooked from the start. My face lights up in joy when I see these at a new restaurant, preparing my mouth for as many as I can cram in there. So good…..

Grape Leaves Stuffing

Making these suckers, I must admit, is a bit involved. First you have to get the grape leaves out of the jar (which, in itself, was a task), separate them, rinse and dry them…. then, after preparing the stuffing you have to hand wrap each one! In the future, this shall be a two day task for me; one day preparing, another cooking. Or maybe, one day doing everything but rolling and cooking….. I don’t know, I’ll figure it out. I must say this is a nice thing to just drop and not worry about. Given the cook time, though, this is more a weekend and workday meal.

Step One Step Two Step Three Step Four

Taking the grape leaves out of the jar can be a bit tricky. It takes a bit of force, more than you might expect, to pull them out. Be “carefully forceful” and you should be fine. Have a little faith that a won’t rip. If you have a salad spinner I recommend using it to rinse and dry your leaves. Be sure to unroll, unfold and separate them all or you’ll have a few pockets of vinegar lurking. If you don’t plan to expect to use them all (say, for example, you are a single male who writes a food blog) then save the brine the store remaining leaves for another time.

Dolmades Ready To Go Dolmades

Vegetarian Stuffed Grape Leaves, Slow Cooker Style
2 tablespoons oil
1 yellow onion; chopped
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 table spoons fresh parsley; roughly chopped
3/4 cup green lentils; rinsed and drained
3/4 basmati rice
1 jar of grape leaves
Several cups of stock (or water)

Rinse your grape leaves and pat dry. Set aside. In a large pan, cook the onion under medium heat with the oil until softened; approximately 5 minutes. Add the spices, lemon juice and cook for another minute then add the parsley, lentils rice and 2 cups of stock (or water). Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes then set aside to cool.

Place grape leaves vein-side up and start placing heaping tablespoons (1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons depending on the size of the leaf) at the bottom in a slight horizontal line. Fold the sides up together, then roll up while tucking in the sides. You want it to be a little tight so it doesn’t explode while cooking. Place snugly together in your slow cooker, layering if necessary. Cover with stock (or water) until just covered and cook for 4-6 hours. Serve and enjoy.

Slow Cooker Week – Day 2, Vegetable Stock

Carrots, Leeks and Parsnips

Stock: culinary ambrosia. A perfect candidate for the slow cooker. I have to admit, the non-vegetarian stocks are much easier to work with, in terms of creating high quality. Sure there are plenty of ways to go in terms of herbs or spices, but it’s really the bones that make the stock. Everything else after that is just gravy (no pun intended).

Stock Ingredients Ready For A Slow Cook The Aftermath

It’s the fat, really. Fat makes just about everything taste better and, well, veggies aren’t exactly on the plump end of that spectrum. Every time I make vegetable stock I change it up a little, in constant search of something that will put it on its own pillar. Taking a page from Heather’s book, I decided to employ the use mushrooms; something I’ve never been fond of. I have to admit they added a great dimension and this is by far my best tasting stock yet. I guess I’ll have to give the ol’ fungus another shot.

Removing The Veggies Straining Vegetables
Vegetable Stock

Slow Cooker Vegetable Stock
I got a bit too much burning on my sliced mushrooms, so I’ve modified the recipe to just halve them. Be sure to cut and discard anything that’s simply burnt instead of browned.

1 parsnip; peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 carrots; peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 medium yellow onions; quartered
1 potato (I used russet); chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces, roughly
1 turnip; peeled and chopped into 1 1/2 inch pieces, roughly
5oz mushrooms; halved
2 stalks celery; cut into 1 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves; unpeeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Put all your vegetables and mushrooms in baking sheets, evenly spaced, and drizzle with oil. Roast in a 450° oven for 30 minutes; rotating halfway through. Throw into a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker with 12 cups of water and cook, covered, for 8 hours.

Let the stock cool for a bit strain through a a fine mesh sieve. Let drain a bit and press/mash the veggies a bit to release some of the liquid. If you only have a small one (like me), simply scoop out your veggies a bit of a time, dumping the leftover vegetables as you go.

Let cool to room temperature and portion into several tightly sealed containers. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for several months. Enjoy!