does everything from posole to queso blanco
I was going to blog about cooking yesterday, but I was obliged to sacrifice yesterday on the altar of Overdue Household Administration Tasks. So you get the cooking blog post a day late. Here it is.
A few weeks ago, I woke up from a dream about cooking posole. It seemed like such a good idea that I resolved to do it for real. And I did! But also I made a mess of the kitchen. I used dried hominy instead of canned, since that happened to be what I was able to lay hands on soonest. And I thought, well, it'll plump up as it reconstitutes, but it'll soak up a bunch of broth as it does, so it's OK that there's not a lot of head room in the pot, right? WRONG. My poor old 4-quart slow-cooker overflowed all over the kitchen counter.
On the plus side, it was full of posole, which is amazing right after a three-hour roller derby practice. That almost made up for having to clean up a lake of ancho chili broth and pork fat right after a three-hour roller derby practice.
Not for the first time, I was reminded it was probably time to upgrade to a 6-quart slow-cooker. And I was reminded again when I found myself shopping at McGuckin a couple days later. They have a nice selection of slow-cookers in various sizes and brands. But I did not bring home a slow-cooker after all. I brought home a multi-cooker. (We pause now for the audience to go "ooh" and "aah" appreciatively.) I admit it: I am weak and easily tempted and also susceptible to the fear of regrets. As in, "Yes, the multi-cooker has a bunch of functions I probably don't need, and it costs about a hundred dollars more than the crock-pot I'd planned to buy. But if I do just buy the crock pot, will I come to regret not having bought the multi-cooker instead? I mean, define false economy. Besides, it's got pressure-cooker functions. Haven't I always kind of sort of wanted a pressure cooker? NOW'S MY CHANCE."
That very night, I used its WHITE RICE function to make rice. Badly. (I've gotten better since.) The next day I used its SAUTÉE, BROWN, and SLOW COOK functions to make the tea-braised chuck roast recipe at the end of this article.
But what I've used it for most frequently is cheese.
The multi-cooker does not boast of a cheese-making function. It boasts instead of a yogurt-making function, which is apparently for cooking the yogurt-to-be after you've mixed in the live culture. I didn't actually use that function. (Also I don't like yogurt.) But the yogurt-making instructions start off by having you heat your milk using the SLOW COOK function, which is also the first step in making paneer. So.
I never manage to drink a whole bottle of milk before its expiration date. "That's OK," I tell myself, pretty much every time. "I'll just make paneer with whatever's left." And then, pretty much every time, I put it off. And I put it off. And then next thing I know, it's too late. The milk has not only begun to self-curdle, which by itself mightn't be so bad, but it has also started turning surgical-appliance pink, and I'm not touching any pink milk that didn't come labeled STRAWBERRY, thanks.
But since acquiring this multi-cooker, I've made cheese multiple times. No putting it off at all. Partially, that's because I'm still all excited about using a brand-new kitchen appliance. But, more to the point, the multi-cooker makes the process simpler. I mean, not the entire process. The whole routine of getting out the cheesecloth and setting up for draining the curds and pressing them into a mold and draining them some more, that doesn't go away. But the multi-cooker does obviate the anxious half hour of running into the kitchen every five minutes to make sure the milk isn't boiling over. It also heats the milk up more slowly and with less potential for scorching.
I probably could have done this in my old 4-quart crock pot. But the idea just never occurred to me until I read the hype on the box the multi-cooker came in. "Does everything from rice to yogurt!" It is possible that a creamed corn experiment gone wrong had left me irrationally averse to heating milk or cream in a slow-cooker. The yogurt instructions reassured me. (I might actually try the slow cooker creamed corn thing again this summer, come to think of it.)
So I've made paneer in the multi-cooker. I have also fried paneer in the multi-cooker (using the BROWN function) preparatory to a sort of random-greens version of saag. Additionally, I have made queso blanco, which is what happens when I leave the curds draining too long so that the finished cheese is a crumbly mess that's fantastic on tamales. I've even experimented with pouring the whey back into the cooker, changing the function from HIGH temp to LOW, adding a tiny bit more acid, and then waiting to see whether this would produce ricotta/ricottone. IT DID. I got like a whole tablespoon of ricotta.
What the heck does one do with a tablespoon of ricotta? Bake a very tiny lasagna? Fill the world's smallest calzone? Stir it into the next batch of macaroni and cheese? Or something else?
TO BE CONTINUED! ...or not, depending.