Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In which I accidentally make meat jello.

Guys, I don't love my Crock Pot. I feel like this is a big confession. I know most people love theirs all to pieces, and I feel a little bit broken inside because of my indifference. But try as I might, I just can't get it to cook me anything really yummy (the one exception being the homemade stock). I've tried a couple roasts and stews, but they are always just a little bit off for some reason. I always get so excited about using my slow cooker, but end up disappointed.

I think the first reason is the complete dearth of quality Crock Pot recipes out there. I don't want to dump in some meat, a package of ranch dressing mix, and a can of cream of chicken soup. I would really prefer to use real food if at all possible. I'm sure some of those recipes taste good, it just isn't what I'm looking for. The second issue is that I think I'm gone too long during the day. I leave the house by 8 and sometimes don't get home until after 7, which is a long time for a slow cooker to run. Mine is programmable, so it can go on low for 8 (or however many) hours and then automatically switch to "warm," but I swear my stuff still gets overcooked. I could still use it on weekends I suppose, but that seems to kind of defeat the point. Anyway, I haven't tried to make pulled pork or Chipotle style barbacoa yet, maybe my Crock Pot still has a chance to redeem itself.

Anyway, my latest slow cooker failure was oxtail stew. As I said in my last two posts, I was feeling adventurous last week. I've been interested in trying to eat from "snout to tail" and exploring different cuts, oxtail seemed like a pretty tame place to start so I picked some up at the farmer's market. I thought I would be able to find a good recipe, but nothing looked good to me so I decided to improvise. I browned the sections of tail, put them in the pot with carrots, half a green pepper, a bulb of fennel, a few cloves of garlic, and a can of chopped tomatoes. I covered it with stock, added some spices, and let it go for 8 hours on low. When it was done I sauteed some grated cauliflower in butter so I could have "rice" to serve with my stew.

The end result was just OK. The individual components tasted good, but there was nothing to bring them together. (Can you tell I watch too much Chopped?) The one good thing (so I thought) was that I'd have plenty for leftovers, and who doesn't love leftovers? Sometimes there is nothing better than not having to cook every meal. 

The only problem was when I pulled it out of the fridge the next day it was JELLO. I made MEAT JELLO. And it wasn't just a layer of fat on the top or anything, the whole thing was like one big Crock Pot shaped, meat flavored, vegetable studded, Jello Jiggler. The Jello salad from hell. Needless to say, we skipped the leftovers and I cooked again.

I always knew that Jello had something to do with bones, since vegetarians don't eat it, but this was a really good illustration of how that happens. It was less than appetizing. I don't eat gelatin often, but I don't think I'll have any problems turning down Jello shots in the future. 


  1. Our chicken usually ends up kind of jello-ified, if it makes you feel any better. When our housekeeper makes it, she puts it in the fridge with all the water and juices she used to cook it, and of course that solidifies. I just scrape it off when I serve it, and any that's left melts down into juices again in the microwave.

  2. If you're looking for quality crock pot recipes, you should check out some of the special editions of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. I like "Diabetic Slow Cooker". It has 145 recipes, mostly GF or easily alterable, and I've already made 3 of the recipes with great success. No crock pot mushy food at all.

    *the meatballs with sweet lemon glaze are amazing!*