I was having a conversation with a neighbor over the weekend about crockpot meals. (Yes, my life really is THAT exciting.) She brought up a very valid point, she said that her main problem with using the crockpot is that the meals always home out… one dimensional. Not necessarily from a flavor aspect, but the texture. I totally agree with this. There are some dishes that are supposed to be this way: soups for one. But even then, you don’t want the noodles or whatever other starch or grain you are using to come out too mushy. The answer is going to really let down a lot of people. You can’t throw all the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and expect it to be completely finished eight hours later. No, you can’t. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.
Here are some tricks I use to add freshness, crunch, and dimension to my crockpot meals:
Add Some Citrus
Here is my Crockpot Chicken Noodle Soup recipe. Adding the noodles at the last minute and adding the lemon and herbs right before I served this really made all the difference.
Add Fresh Herbs
The addition of chives right after plating adding freshness and some crunch to my Crockpot Beef Stroganoff.
Peanuts! My Spicy Thai soup was begging for peanuts. The crunch of the peanuts and freshness of the herbs put this dish right over the top!
Make a Sauce
All that saucy deliciousness that’s left in the crock after cooking needs to be saved! It may look a little too thin to be an actual sauce, but it can easily and effortlessly turned into a delicious sauce for your dish and for a future dish. The jars above are from three different crockpot meals. In some of the cases, I let the meat rest while I reduced it on the stovetop. In other cases I reduced it during our meal and kept it for a spread for sandwiches or used it on the leftovers. To reduce the cooking liquid transfer all that yummy stuff into a pot on your stove, get it to a boil, tun it to medium low and let it go, uncovered, until it’s reduced by half and looks nice and thick. Easy!
Finish in the Oven
I made the delicious ribs in the crockpot. I used a rub, smeared them with some homemade BBQ, poured a Dr. Pepper in and let them go for 8 hours. When they were done, I took them out and let them rest while reduced the cooking liquid. When that sauce was ready, I painted the ribs and put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes until they had a little bit of a crust on them. Totally added a new texture. YUM!
Citrus, herbs, crunch, and a cold element.
Many of the tips come together in my Crockpot Southwest Chicken. This is far and away the fave crockpot recipe in our house. It’s delicious, but it’s always taking on a new life based on the accouterments I put with it. The above is the classic version. It’s poured over a bed of rice and pumped up with a squeeze of lime juice, topped with crunchy tortilla chips, tangy cheese, fresh herbs, and cold sour cream.
What tips and tricks to you use to make your crockpot meals five star?