Dinner time around our house can be, like most houses, chaotic. My baby (aka Babycake), often demands to be fed around 4:30 or 5, which is prime time for making dinner, while Sous Chef is grumpy and tired. And let’s not forget me: dealing with a 3-year-old and an infant all day leaves me exhausted (though I love the dears) and I’m grumpy, too. I solve Sous Chef’s problem by allowing her to watch her one hour of television (currently, her show of choice is Curious George), but I have yet to figure out how to solve Babycake’s problem: babies need to eat when they need to eat. While I feed her in the kitchen, I stare at my cutting board, often with an onion half-chopped, and sigh. Dinner around here has been delayed by almost an hour quite often.
I’m sure you’ll think is a no-brainer, but it took me a few weeks to figure it out, and I’m still trying to implement it well. It all started with a recipe from Skinny Taste. One day, in my search for menu items for the week, I found this recipe for Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken and thought it sounded delicious and easy. I added it to our weekly menu and made it a few days later, although I omitted the corn. It was a stretch for me to remember to put it together in the morning, but it was nice to smell dinner simmering away all day; the warm scent of cumin and spicy tomatoes wafted through the house and instantly relaxed me. Knowing dinner would be ready without me is very liberating. When dinnertime rolled around, all I had to do was start some rice. I fed Babycake with nary a care in the world, and when Engineer walked in the door, we gathered around the table as a family, and ate a nice, relaxed dinner. It was heaven in a crock pot. It took two kids for me to realize the benefits of a crock pot: before, I enjoyed using it, but felt there was little difference between doing dinner prep in the morning and in the afternoon. With two kids, who both demand attention when I need to be in the kitchen, I’ve learned my lesson.
It would be impossible to incorporate a crock pot dinner into every day (well, not impossible; I’m sure many of you have seen the blogger who used her crock pot everyday for a year on Pinterest), but I’m determined to use it more (although, I’ll somehow have to figure out how to get around Sous Chef’s aversion to leftovers). The problem is that there are just some things you can’t make in a crock pot. I used it just yesterday, and used a recipe from the excerpted Slow Cooker Revolution magazine from America’s Test Kitchen: Korean Braised Short Ribs. It took several trips to find a grocery store that sold bone-in short ribs (Whole Foods to the rescue!), but the dish was delicious. And it smelled great all day: a sweet mixture of pear, ginger, and soy sauce was pungent and perfect. I avoided the issue of leftovers by inviting our good friends over, who love Korean food. Everyone devoured the meat, which was so tender it just about fell apart if you looked at it wrong, even their meat-averse daughter. This meal was a win all around, and even if Sous Chef won’t eat the leftovers, I probably would.
Korean Braised Short Ribs
(adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution)
3 1/2 pounds bone-in short ribs, deboned, bones reserved
1 pear, peeled, cored and chopped
1/2 cup soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons instant tapioca
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
Place the beef bones in a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for 10-12 minutes, until they are nicely browned. Put the bones in the crock pot.
While bones are browning, process the pear, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, green onions, and vinegar until smooth. Pour over the bones. Add the chicken broth and tapioca to the crock pot and stir to combine.
Season the meat with salt and pepper and add to the crock pot, stirring to coat the meat and distribute it evenly among the bones. Cook on high for 4-7 hours or on low for 8-11 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving, remove the meat to a serving plate and remove the bones. Strain out any bits of meat and allow the sauce to settle. Using a spoon, skim the fat from the surface. Mix the cilantro into the sauce and serve on the side. Serve with rice.