Crockpot

Dijon Chardonnay Chicken Legs

Do you know what the most expensive cut of chicken is? If you guessed boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you're right. But shockingly, the second most expensive is chicken wings. Now I know why I never go to Hooters. Well that, and the Starving Artist is a leg man, so if I'm plan ogling a woman's legs, I'd prefer they not be covered with cheap tan pantyhose. Anyhow, I'm getting off track. I had a hankering for chicken wings this weekend, but the budget wouldn't manage it – and still allow for wine. So I went with whole chicken legs, the cheapest cut of chicken there is. And man, am I glad I did. Not only did this allow me to stretch my budget, but it opened the door to an extra bottle of wine. And I love these delicious Chicken Legs with a Dijon Chardonnay Glaze. Like I said, I'm a leg man.

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Ingredients for the Brine

  • 1 gallon (16 cups) water, divided
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 6 whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh intact)

Ingredients for the Chicken

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup neutral cooking oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine ( I used Chardonnay)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. For the brine, in a large stock pot, cover the chicken with about 12 cups of cold water. In another saucepan, heat 4 cups of water until almost boiling. Add the salt, sugar, and peppercorns, then stir until completely dissolved. Add the water from the saucepan to the stock pot with the chicken. Cover, and refrigerate the chicken for a minimum of 2 hours.
  2. Next, remove the chicken from the brine, rinse in cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk the Dijon mustard, cooking oil, and wine until well combined.
  3. Finally, place the chicken legs skin-side up on large cast iron grill pan or a rimmed baking sheet. Brush the tops with the mustard sauce and season with salt and pepper. Cook in a 350 degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees with an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat, about 45 to 50 minutes. If you'd like some sexy grill marks on your chicken, flip the legs on your grill pan for the last 5 minutes.

Crockpot French Dip

A few years ago, my life spiraled apart in epic fashion. A 20 year relationship ended in divorce about the same time I realized I hated what I did for a living. 15+ years sitting behind a computer working as a web developer, 12-14 hours a day with no human interaction beyond the time spent in worthless meetings, coupled with the pressure of life spent "keeping up with the Joneses" had turned me into someone both my wife and I didn't like. When the spiral stopped, I coasted a bit. Took some time to catch my breath. Eventually I found a life that works. A few hours a day as a waiter in a cozy Italian restaurant interacting with real people, then evenings and weekends in the studio, hovering over my art while minding the hotplates. Given my background and skill set, some might call this slacking off, and I don't know that I'd disagree. But I do know the easygoing pace works for me. Just like the slow and simple nature of this Crockpot French Dip.

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 Ingredients

  • 3 pound beef roast (rump or top round)
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle of Shiner Bock
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • French baguette, hoagie rolls, or other crusty bread for serving
  • Slices of Provolone, Swiss, or Mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Trim the excess fat off of your roast and place it in the crockpot. Add all of the remaining ingredients and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  2. Split open your rolls (and spread with butter, if desired). Heat in a toaster oven until toasted or bake in a regular oven set to 350 degrees until warm and toasty (about 10 minutes).
  3. Using a couple of forks, shred the meat, and then pile on top of your toasted rolls. Place slices of cheese over the meat and put in the toaster oven or under the broiler for a couple of minutes until melted.
  4. Serve the hot sandwiches with a small bowl of reserved cooking juices for dipping.

Crockpot Carnitas

While pulling together the recipes for my soon-to-be-released Art/Memoir/Cookbook "How to Become a Starving Artist, or at Least Eat Like One – Volume 1",  the Starving Artist was a bit surprised by the underrepresentation of one of his favorite cuisines: Mexican food. Careful consideration and quiet contemplation helped me understand why. I can be flat out lazy. And too often, my favorite Mexican dishes require a significant investment of time, energy, and experience. Well, not today. Today all it requires is a crockpot, a little beer, and a willingness to sit back and relax. That's right up my alley. Introducing Crockpot Carnitas.

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Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (4-5 pounds) lean boneless pork roast, excess fat trimmed, cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 1 cup of your favorite beer
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 or 2 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the pork, and sear on each side until browned – about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer pork to the crockpot.
  2. Next, add the remaining ingredients to the crockpot, and give the mixture a stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours, until the pork is completely tender and shreds easily with a fork.
  3. Once the pork is cooked, preheat your broiler to high and prepare a couple of baking sheets with aluminum foil. Use a fork to shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, then use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer it to the prepared baking sheets, spreading the pork in an even layer and leaving the juices behind in the slow cooker. Don't discard the juices, you'll use them later.
  4. Place one sheet under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the edges of the pork begin to brown and crisp up. Remove your sheet pan from the oven, ladle about 1/4 cup of the juices from the slow cooker evenly over the pork, give it a good toss with some tongs, then return to the oven to broil for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and ladle an additional 1/4 cup of broth over the now delicious and lightly crispy pork. Repeat with the other baking sheet of pork.
  5. Serve with soft tortillas, dressed however you like.

Crockpot Marinara

I learned a new word recently, and I like it: Autotelic (au·to·te·lic); "Refers to a self contained activity, one that is not done with the expectation of future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward. When an experience is autotelic, the person is paying attention to the activity for its own sake." This is the perfect explanation of how I approach my art. If I never sell another piece, I'm perfectly fine with that. I simply love the process. This new word also helps explain my time on the hotplate, where my goal is to play with flavors, ingredients, and technique – and to kill time while ink dries. Most of the time my experiments result in modest success, but not always. In fact, I've had a string of failures lately, and while I've learned from each of these, the screw-ups have thinned out my wallet, and my waistline. So this week I've fallen back on the cheapest and most flexible of dishes. Pasta. Or more precisely, pasta sauce. It's simple, inexpensive, and wide open to experimentation. Finding the perfect combination of flavors to fit my mood is an end in itself. The fact that I have enough leftover for a week's worth of pasta is a delicious side effect.

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Ingredients

  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano tomatoes)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (see notes)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (see notes)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Notes

  1. Don't fear the crushed red pepper. You'll barely notice the 1/2 teaspoon. It just adds a little underlying richness. However, if you're like me and prefer a spicier sauce, you have two options. Option 1: Add 1 to 1 & 1/2  teaspoons crushed red pepper to the slow cooker, and you'll love the spiciness. Or, option 2: stick with the original recipe, but amp it up a bit when you reheat a little sauce for a bowl of pasta later in the week. This is my usual path, as it allows me to share some of this big ol' batch of marinara with friends and family, most of whom are sadly spice adverse.
  2. This marinara is great without the olive oil, but even better with it. The oil adds a creaminess to the sauce that takes it one step closer to sublime. Yeah, I just said sublime.
  3. When I reheat this sauce later in the week, I often add a little Italian sausage or ground beef to it. I simply brown the meat in a saucepan before adding the leftover sauce to warm. Sometimes I go really crazy and add leftover goodies from my vegetable drawer. You never know what I might do.

Directions

  1. Dice the onion, mince the garlic, place both in the crockpot, then add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, bay leaves, basil, oregano, olive oil, and crushed red pepper. Stir well to combine, then secure the lid on your crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. If you're the curious type, pop open the lid about 4 hours in and check for flavor. This is a good time to add a little salt or pepper. Also, if your crockpot tends to give up moisture and the sauce seems like it's getting thick, add about 1/2 cup of water to thin it out a bit. If the timing of this isn't practical, don't worry. You can always add a little salt, pepper, and water at the end.
  3. Finally, eight leisurely and inattentive hours later, you're done. Stir the sauce a bit, take out the bay leaves, and serve over your favorite pasta. Save the rest in the fridge for a quickie bowl – or eight – of pasta later in the week.

Cranberry Sriracha Baby Back Ribs

Occasionally the glamorous life of the starving artist turns out to be less than it's cracked up to be. Sure, there's the mystique of the warehouse loft in a questionable neighborhood. And don't forget about the allure of sacrificing for one's art when there's no heat at the studio. The ladies love a man who gives his all in the pursuit of a dream. Then reality kicks in. Literally. Last night the starving artist arrived to find the front door kicked in, and most of his meager possessions gone. Luckily the thieves weren't art fans, and only took the electronics and the wine. The wine! Anyhow, coping requires some low-effort comfort food. And since the burglars must have already owned a crockpot, I'm using mine to make Cranberry Sriracha Baby Back Ribs. I guess the weekend isn't a total loss.

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Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 can (12-ounces) jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 bottle (14-ounces) Heinz Sriracha Ketchup
  • 4 pounds of baby back ribs
  • 1 cup water

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the Heinz Sriracha Ketchup and cranberry sauce until smooth. Remove 1 cup of the sauce and set it aside.
  3. Remove the ribs from the package and pat dry, and set them meaty-side-up on a cutting board. Cut the rack into 3-4 rib sections. Sprinkle the dry spice mixture onto the meaty side of the ribs and press to adhere to the meat.
  4. Pour the water into the bottom of the slow cooker.
  5. Spread the sauce generously onto both sides of the ribs. Set the ribs into the slow cooker.
  6. Cook on high heat for 3 1/2 hours.
  7. Remove the ribs to a baking sheet (meaty-side-up). Preheat your oven broiler. Brush the remaining 1 cup of sauce onto the meaty side of the ribs. Broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.