Monday, January 11, 2010

January: A Month of Slow Cooking

It's time I slowed down a little bit.

If New Years Resolutions (NYRs) could talk, this one would be bouncing off all 4 walls of my apartment, ceiling and floor shouting, "Isn't it time yet you fanatic?!?!  You've been going going going non-stop since you began to walk, getting triangles (think: worse than a check minus) in self-control on your report cards!! Pick me this year!  Slow life down a bit!!!  Learn to SIT STILL!!!!!"  Well little NYR, you just got lucky because this year, is your year.  Or, err, depending on my diligence, maybe decade.

I love a new year, if only for the excuse to make some drastic ridiculous change to your life and watch your friends do the same.  So many become overwhelmed by the daunting task of picking resolutions.  While it may be a pretty failed concept (I'm supposed to actually rehearse all the things in my mind that I had failed at over the past year and decide which ones I want to pick up again, which ones I'm ready to scrap and what new things can I add to my now overflowing plate????  Breathe...) I think I may just spring for ONE this year.  I don't believe in resolutions.  Last year I picked 5 words that would shape the way I took care of myself.  This year, I've got only one.  Slow.

I move fast at work- trying to keep up with markets (which can be quite the daunting task when you're at it 10 hours a day). I move fast at home- I clean my apartment Tasmanian Devil style, driving forward on Lady Gaga beats.  And of course, I move really fast in the kitchen.  I'm used to cooking by myself and learned to cook by whipping away and throwing things into the dishwasher, cleaning while I cook.  I have this sick obsession with sitting down to a meal and already having 75% of the dishes done, or at least already in the dishwasher.  Friends calmly sit and drink at my kitchen table, sipping on margaritas, wine, what have you, all while I cling and clang away, whipping up something lovely.  This is the way I've cooked.  This is what I know.

Until January.  I asked Santa for a 5.5 qt digital Slow Cooker for Christmas and my oh my did he deliver.  I picked up a modern, well designed, ethnically creative, 'not-your-1950's' slow cooker cookbook  and have begun to tag the recipes I'll start with and swore to myself that the entire month of January, I was only allowed to cook out of the slow cooker.  Prep early, cook for hours and forget about it, and when my friends arrive, I will sit: calmly, serenely, sipping on wine and letting my slow cooker do the work for me.  Well, at least that's the idea.

Thus far, I've made Southwestern Beef Rolls, horridly named (I'm imagining the 49 cent menu at Taco Bell) but this was quite far from it.  Take a roasted green chili, stuff it with chorizo, wrap a round steak around the whole deal, secure with toothpicks and roast in tomato puree, 3 kinds of peppers and hot pepper seasonings.  Straight forward, not too much prep, good. I'm still using all the tomato sauce on pastas and pizzas.

Next up:  Chicken Breasts stuffed with Boursin and Spinach (recipe modified below).  A bit clunky to prepare (read: this is not the recipe you choose to prep before going to work in the morning) but everything turned out splendidly.  Yes, the chicken was unbelievably moist and because I pounded it flat enough, I didn't need toothpicks to secure them shut.  No, the cheese didn't melt all out of the chicken and into the white wine sauce.  It stayed in its proper place, wrapping itself around the spinach and cozily nestled inside chicken.  No, my spinach wasn't too wet!  The cookbook suggested I used a ****potato ricer**** to squeeze all the extra liquid from the spinach and for all of you spanikopita makers out there-- this WILL WORK!  And yes, I did use a whole cup of heavy whipping cream.  It's winter and I need to keep warm.

Just a suggestion for all of you cooks out there who are looking to be healthier, stay warm, have leftovers, save on buying lunch out-- embrace that slow cooker.   I'm planning on using ONLY this lovely little cooker for the next month, or maybe two depending on how cold February is, with more recipes to post on.  Stay tuned...

Chicken stuffed with Boursin and Spinach

6 chicken breasts, pounded to 3/4 inch thick
1/4 c shallots, minced
16 oz frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry ****
1 5.2 oz Pepper and Herb Boursin Cheese
2 t nutmeg
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 c chives, finely chopped

Sautee shallots in 1 T olive oil for 2 minutes.  Add spinach and saute until spinach is dried and flaky.  Pour into a medium sized bowl and allow it to cool.  Meanwhile, pound chicken breasts to about 3/4 inch thick.  I use 2 sheets of clear plastic wrap and place my chicken inside, pounding in it with my rolling pin and listening to Lilly Allen for extra motivation.  Sprinkle each chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Combine Boursin, spinach mix and nutmeg.  Scoop about 1/2 cup of mixture onto each chicken.  Roll lengthwise and tuck the ends underneath the roll.  If they don't sit flat (ie. come unrolled) use toothpicks to secure.  Place in your slow cooker.  Cover with chicken broth and wine and add a little extra salt and pepper for good measure.  Cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  When chicken breast reads 170 when poked at with a meat thermometer, remove from the slow cooker and keep warm.  Pour remaining broth into a medium saute pan and reduce by half.  Add cream and reheat.  Add chives and serve over chicken.  I served with steamed lemon brussel spouts and whole wheat pasta shells.

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