Last night my family all came over for dinner. For once, I was thinking far enough ahead that I was able to get dinner going first thing in the morning and put it in the slow cooker to cook all day, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. A very successful strategy, that I shall have to employ more often.
I made a sausage minestrone, which seemed to satisfy everyone (along with bread and a great salad, contributed by my brother, and a couple of bottles of wine, contributed by my mother). As always, “minestrone” means soup with lots of stuff in it. This time, I used Italian-style chicken sausage, bacon, carrots, onion, leeks, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, lentils, spinach and orzo pasta.
Here are some things I have learned about cooking in the slow cooker:
- You need to brown the sausage and bacon first (or any ground meats).
- It is also a good idea to pre-saute aromatics, such as onions and carrots, to bring out their flavors.
- I de-glazed the saute pan with some red wine and also added a can or pureed tomatoes to bring some body to the broth.
- The recipe I used called for 8 cups of broth, but since liquid doesn’t evaporate in the slow cooker, I only used 4 cups and it was still quite soupy.
- I added a couple of Parmesan rinds that I had saved in lieu of salt.
- I pre-cooked the orzo and stirred it in at the end of the cooking time so that it wouldn’t absorb all the liquid.
- I also added the spinach at the end and just let it wilt a bit.
I plan to eat leftovers for the next couple of days, so I may not post until those are gone.
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