If you have problems separating strips of bacon, pull off the total number of strips you want and place the whole block in the skillet. Within a few minutes, the slices will soften, and they'll be easy to pull apart.
One aspect many cooks perceive as a downside of the slow cooker is that most food is soft and has a uniform texture when it finishes cooking. Now that you've mastered the basics of slow cooking and how to prepare foods, here are some ideas to help those delicious dishes garner a "Wow!" when they appear on the table:
- Instead of adding cheese to a dish for the last part of the cooking time, sprinkle it on top of the food right before you serve it. This is especially good with hard cheeses like Parmesan and feta.
- For an unexpected crunch, add toasted croutons to the tops of stews and soups before serving.
- Sprigs of fresh herbs used while cooking the dishes add color.
- Toast nuts like slivered almonds and chopped walnuts in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes and sprinkle on stews before serving.
- Crumbled bacon is a good garnish for pork stews and hearty soups.
Remember that the crockery insert to your slow cooker is pottery, not metal. Never place it on a cold surface when it's hot, or it can crack. Also, do not scrub it with an abrasive like steel wool because it can scratch the surface.
The crockery insert in your slow cooker is delicate, but it's not a marshmallow. It can be placed in the microwave, if your microwave is large enough to hold it, and a warmed insert can go right in a preheated oven.
You can shortcut steps like pre-cooking onions by cooking them in the insert in the microwave rather than cooking them on the stove. (If you go this route, know the onions will not achieve the same caramelized flavor.)
If you want to brown the top of a casserole, preheat the oven broiler or set the oven temperature at 450°F and set the warmed insert containing the finished dish inside for a few minutes. Then use the insert as a serving dish by placing it on a trivet right on the table.
More on: Cooking Tips and Basics
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Slow Cooker Cooking © 2003 by Ellen Brown. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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