Archive for Slow Cooker

Slow Cookers for the DTES

As a food blogger, I often work closely with PR agencies around the city. They invite me to events, to try new products and restaurants. It’s a great relationship, and it is beneficial for both of us.

I recently had an email from Rachel over at Dunn PR, alerting me to a new project that they are volunteering on. Let me tell you about it.

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Last month, I wrote a post about food deserts, and how tough it is to eat healthy on a tiny budget. Many people who live in the DTES live on a budget of $25 or less a week for their food. As you can imagine, this is a big challenge, and they often can’t get through the week without the help of food banks, or soup kitchens.

Whole Way House is a charitable organization located in the DTES, and they service the residents of an SRO called The Avalon, located at Main and Pender. Whole Way House provides community services, like family dinners, games nights, haircuts, pet therapy, and a community garden.

One of the challenges of living in an SRO is that you have no kitchen. Many residents have a small fridge or maybe a toaster oven or a hot plate. But they don’t have a full, functioning kitchen. Cooking healthy food can be a real challenge.

Whole Way House is partnering up with Chef David Robertson, of The Dirty Apron cooking school, to do crock pot cooking classes for the residents of The Avalon. Slow cookers are the perfect tool for people who live an SRO. You can cook an entire meal in there, start to finish, and you make those meals healthy soups, stews and curries. In addition, they are incredibly safe, and the long cooking process makes most things you make in there quite flavourful and delicious.

Chef Robertson has been a supporter of Whole Way House for a while. He lives in the neighbourhood, and has a friend that works there. In the past, he’s hosted fundraisers for the charity, has offered his Dirty Apron kitchen so they can cook their Christmas turkeys, and and regularly donates leftovers from the cooking school.

“We all have a role to play in the community,” he says, when I interview him in the kitchen classroom at The Dirty Apron. “I see food as a medium to help in the community.”

Whole Way House’s mandate is combat lonliness in the DTES, and create that sense of community, so when they asked him if he would teach a slow cooker cooking class, he said yes.

He will teach the first class on February 29, and it will be a riff on the Boeuf Borgignon recipe in his recently published Dirty Apron Cookbook.

“Stew is perfect for slow cookers,” he says. “It’s rustic, and it doesn’t demand a lot of specialty tools. They basically just need a knife and cutting board.”

The recipe is inexpensive, and can easily feed a number of people. The class will include a shopping list, including how much each item costs.

I took Chef Robertson’s recipe to the Sunshine Market on the DTES and shopped for the ingredients. All together, it cost me under $12.71 to purchase the ingredients (with bacon left over). This recipe will feed 3-4, especially if you include a side dish, like pasta, potatoes or bread.

Here’s the Chef demoing the recipe on a recent episode of Breakfast Television:

How can you help?

UPDATE: the slow cooker cooking class was a big success! Thanks to everyone who donated.

Confit Onions in the Slow Cooker

I am not a fan of raw onions. Served to me on a salad or a burger, I will pick them off. When you cook the onions, however, it’s a whole different ballgame.

Onions have lots of naturally-occurring sugars, so when you cook them down at a low heat, the most magical thing happens to them. They caramelize, and take on this gorgeous light-brown colour. They become sweet and savoury all at the same time.

confit onions

Yeah, there were a few tears this day…

I make these regularly, and keep them in my fridge. They come out and get added to grilled cheeses (my favourite), any kind of wrap or burrito, burgers, or as a garnish to a piece of baguette topped with a chunk of brie.

You can even can these and give them out as gifts.

I love doing mine in the slow cooker. It just is so easy. Slice ’em up in the food processor, add them along with a few other ingredients, and let it go. 8 hours later, voila! Perfect caramelized onions.

A quick word of warning: it’s kind of shocking how much these cook down. A slow cooker full of onions will net you a cup or two of the good stuff, but it really is a condiment, so you’ll likely only use a tablespoon or two at a time.

Slow-Cooker Confit Onions

Ingredients

  • approximately 2 lbs onions (really, any kind, although purple and Walla Walla are sweeter)
  • 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1-2 tbsp port wine
  • 1 tbsp sweetener–maple syrup, brown sugar or molasses
  • 1 tsp thyme, or a couple of fresh spigs

Method: 

  1. Prep the onions by halving and peeling them, then thinly slicing them into half-moon rounds. I did the slicing in the food processor, but you could also do it on a mandolin, or by hand. You will have a large pile of onions.
  2. Dump the onions, along with the rest of the ingredients, into your slow cooker, and turn it up on high. Stir everything together well.
  3. Allow to cook for about 6 hours, stirring occasionally. They onions are done when they achieve a nice caramel colour. Remove the sprig of thyme, if using. If the onions are really watery, you can take the lid off of the slow cooker and cook them for another hour or so until the water evaporates and the onions thicken. Alternatively, you can finish them in a saucepan on top of the stove, boiling them, uncovered, until you get the right consistency.
  4. Store in a jar in the fridge. My 2 lbs of onions boiled down to make enough to fill a 500-ml mason jar.

Also, check out my friend Melissa’s version of this recipe.

 

 

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