It's not often that I write about my cooking, but whenever I do something noteworthy for the first time, I gotta holla. In the case of my first time using a crock pot, I believe that I went through one of the single man's rites of passage, albeit decades too late. Although the crock pot was invented about sixty years ago, I never thought about using one until recently after some of my drinking buddies at the Silly Goose convinced me into getting one. Given my propensity for procrastination, it took months before I got around to buying a crock pot. Getting one was an afterthought, for it took a shopping trip for something else to get me into a store to buy a "pot." While waiting in line at a Best Buy to purchase a Roku 2, I noticed that the "big box" store also sold kitchen appliances. At that point, I realized that I could kill two birds with one stone by buying a crock pot. Best Buy offers a nice selection of "pots" to choose from, including programmable crock pots. I decided to go with the cheapest and simplest crock pot that has all the features I needed. In the end, I got the Crock Pot model SCV401-TR that cost about $25.
After getting the crock pot, I procrastinated a little longer before opening the box. While I watched movies and TV shows through my new Roku, the box of my crock pot stayed on my kitchen table unopened (along with a bunch of mail, including my invitation to the Majestic Grille's tenth anniversary party; I really regret missing it). Eventually, my friend Bob (aka "Bicycle Bobby" of the Squeal Street BBQ Team) badgered me into cooking SOMETHING with my crock pot. So, after scouring the Internet to find the perfect recipe for my first crock pot experience, I chose something that I knew I would like. My love for Cajun and Creole food convinced me to go with Colleen's Slow Cooker Jambalaya recipe from AllRecipes. Most of my friends told that this wasn't the easiest thing for a first-time crock pot novice to undertake, but I decided to take on the challenge. Maybe "challenge" isn't the appropriate word to describe using a crock pot, for many foods are easy to cook with it. For the most part, you simply prep your ingredients, throw it in the crock pot for eight hours, pour/scoop it out and eat it. That said, I'm guessing there is a little more to most crock pot recipes than that simple logic, which my efforts to cook jambalaya proved. Anyway, I eventually chose a Sunday to embark on my crock pot "challenge."
In preparation for my first crock pot cook, I discovered that I had many of the ingredients already. With my late mom being an excellent cook, she had nearly all the spices I needed which gave me a head start. All I had to do is get the meat and vegetables (along with Cajun seasoning) required for the jambalaya. For the vegetable portion of the recipe, I bought frozen onions and green bell peppers that were already chopped. When it comes to cooking, I don't mind taking short cuts if it making cooking a little easier. However, when I posted a pic on Facebook displaying most of the ingredients, my friend Joe (aka "Captain Sparkles") responded with "Really?" when he saw the bag of chopped onions. Hey, what can I say? I'm a wuss when it comes dealing with the powerful, offensive odor that a raw onion yields (well, at least my celery was fresh). As for the meat portion of the recipe, getting it was mostly easy although acquiring the frozen shrimp was a bit of a hassle. It turns out that most grocery stores sell peeled, no-tail shrimp in 12 ounce bags as opposed to one pound bags (Whole Foods is the exception). To satisfy the requirement, I got a 12 ounce bag from Cash Saver and the rest of the shrimp from The Fresh Market. Surprisingly, because I discovered that my mom also had chicken broth at her house along the spices, my eventual grocery bill was lower than I expected. Once I got everything in hand, I got down to business with my crock pot.
Like most crock pot dishes, cooking the jambalaya was simple. I followed the instructions with regards to preparation (with one glaring exception that I will explain later) and threw everything into the pot and waited the requisite eight hours required for cooking (by the way, it's better to mix everything before cranking up the crock pot, which prevents burning yourself). When the cooking process was about done, I went back to the recipe to see what else was needed. At that point, I discovered a mistake in the process. When I threw everything into the pot, that included the shrimp. If I followed the directions properly, I should have waited until the final thirty minutes before putting the frozen shrimp in. Despite that mistake, the smell that came from my cooked jambalaya make me optimistic that everything was going to be okay.
From its appearance, the jambalaya was very appealing. That said, I was anxious to get a bowl of it for the purpose of determining whether I succeeded or not. My initial impression was obvious, for it had the quality of Cajun spiciness that I expected. Also, I could detect the strong presence of celery in the jambalaya which was surprising. Because the shrimp cooked through the entire process, it was rubbery although I didn't mind. Overall, Colleen's Slow Cooker Jambalaya was pretty good despite my mistakes in making it.
A day later, I microwaved some jambalaya to determine if the taste was consistent. Unlike my initial bowl of it, the taste was muted. I didn't detect the celery like I did earlier, but the andouille sausage was a little more prominent in the jambalaya. Speaking of the sausage, I used twelve ounces of cooked andouille (along ounces of smoked sausage) as opposed to a pound of raw meat. As I later discovered, using cooked (or rather semi-cooked) wasn't a bad thing. If anything, the cooked sausage is easier to deal with and more flavorful in the jambalaya. Over the course of a week, whether eating it with rice (recommended in the recipe) or not, Colleen's Slow Cooker Jambalaya got a "B" for being pretty good despite being a notch below Bourbon Street. I can definitely see myself making this again.
clumpy. Also, the raw sausage rendered more fat while providing less flavor. Even with properly cooked shrimp, my second batch of jambalaya was a little less tasty than my first cook. Overall, it was decent but if I use raw andouille again, I will season and sear it before throwing it in a crock pot.
As for the crock pot itself, I'm not sure how often I will use it. While it is a great tool in the kitchen, I don't see myself getting up in the morning, chopping up meats and vegetables and measuring spices for a meal that I might not eat that day. Especially on days when I'm seeing one my favorite bartenders at the "Goose" and my drinking buddies, I'm probably not cooking anything, let alone "crocking" it (to any douchebags reading this, I just coined a word). However, on days when I have a lot of time on my hands and staying at home, I can see myself using my crock pot occasionally. I'm curious to see what I will make, whether it be stews, sauces, roasts or anything else. If I find something I really like, the crock pot might become my best friend. Only time will tell.
Labels: Cajun/Creole, Commentary, Recipes, Soup
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