Six Ingredients or Less

First I forgot to give you the link for those crockpot reviews, so here it is:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2113226

Now, let’s get to the meat of the matter, or shall we say, the food. Crock pot kept saying “Feed me Seymore, FEED ME!” (Little Shop of Horrors”) so I had to get going!

Very important recipe criterion: simplicity. Minimal pre-preparation, little slice and dice, no multipage discussions of this or that. Short and sweet. Quick trip to the bookstore netted me this:
“Six Ingredients or Less,” by Carlean Johnson. Oh this looked favorable. I mean, six ingredients! Most of it just canned stuff that you dump in with the meat! What could be neater, what could be sweeter? My friend Abby thumbed through it and smirked. “Huh. Six ingredients. Ridiculous!” I would not be swayed.

So I chose my first recipe, thusly:

“Southwestern Style Chicken”

4 to 6 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
1 jar (16 oz) chunky salsa, divided
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained.

Combine half the salsa, and all the corn and black beans in a slow cooker. Add chicken, top with remaining salsa. Cover and cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours or until chicken is tender and cooked through. Makes 4-6 servings.

Just FYI, most cookers come with either HIGH or LOW settings, you can’t set the exact temp. Mine also comes with a nifty feature, auto “keep warm” so it’s not a mass of cold goo when you come home late at night.

I made a few changes, for the sake of “simplicity.” Chicken breasts, skinned and boned? No. Chicken chicken cutlets. Frozen corn? Nah. Easier: canned corn.

So one Sunday morning, I plopped all this stuff into the cooker, turned on low, and did my usual sunday stuff: watch plenty of useless TV, surf aimlessly on the web, go the gym in order to sweat copiously. Every now and then, I would look in the pot, and things seemed to be bubbling auspiciously. After an hour or two, a nice smell. I was full of hope.

Dinner time, 6 pm. I could wait no longer to sample my delicious meal. I opened the cover, and a waft of fragrant steam blew out of it. Everything looked kinda red from the salsa.

The verdict? Kinda dry. So THAT’S why I was supposed to use larger cuts of meat, not thin cutlets. Second: kinda bland. My good friend Abby and our intern Jennifer laughed and laughed when I told them that. “So how much seasoning was in there?” she asked. “Hey, it wasn’t in the recipe,” I said. More laughter.

OK. Two lessons: bigger cuts of meat, and more salt/ pepper. A lot more. Question, will I learn these lessons well or will I , in my rigid middle aged way, continue to slavishly follow simplistic recipes?

Stay tuned…

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