Realm of the Edible, Week 2 (retrospect...)

The most notable culinary attempt of the last week combined two new "firsts" for me -- cooking lamb and using a slow cooker /crock pot. Growing up I had lots of crock pot experience vicariously through my mother, but any direct contact with the slow cooker was limited to me turning it on or off at specified times... and often getting yelled at for forgetting to do even that much. So, having purchased one (for more than half off during the after-Christmas sales :P), I first had to convince my boyfriend that it was a worthwhile purchase. This I did mostly by emailing him a barrage of lamb, curry, and beer-braised ribs slow-cooker recipes and describing in vivid detail how nice it would be to come home from work with the savory scent of any of the above floating through the house to meet us. After he was convinced -- nay, rendered a devout disciple in the Way of the Crock Pot -- by my clever marketing schemes, then we got to try to figure out how to use the thing.

We chose a Mediterranean-inspired Leg of Lamb recipe, and prepared everything the night before with eager anticipation.... but I'll admit, it fell a little short of my high hopes. However, this was mostly due to me failing to think through the fact that my 8 hour work day doesn't necessarily correspond with 8 hours away from home. In fact, if I turn on the crock pot even moments before sauntering out the door on a chilly Monday morning, the time spent commuting to and fro, eating lunch, etc, will keep me away from home for more like 10 hours. (Kind of a duh, right?) So, if a recipe says 6-8 hrs on high, and I leave it at that temperature while I'm at work, the time it will spend cooking away oh-so-efficiently is actually closer to a withering 10 hours. The long and short of it... the lamb was edible, but the broth/gravy was cooked to a brown and gummy mess, and the meat itself was as dry as the Sahara at high noon. Believe it or not it was still pretty good, which means that 10 hours on low just might make for one amazing dinner... but it was kind of a let-down in the moment.

(That photo is from a more successful cook's rendition of Leg-of-Lamb... click through for the recipe!)

In retrospect: Carefully choose the setting for a slow-cooker if you're going to be away. This precaution may also cut down on the amount of time you spend at work wondering if your house is burning down even as you type and file... Can you tell I'm the anxious type?

For the rest of the week we pretty much limited our cooking to making a tater tot casserole with the leftover lamb, and then making pasta primavera and The Best Garlic Bread Ever. We did make a couple of changes to the pasta recipe as posted on the site, substituting College Inn white wine and herbs chicken broth for the bouillon and actual wine -- it seemed to work really well, while saving the actual wine for actual drinking... Oh! And I hadn't planned for dessert, so I threw together some imaginative pumpkin tarts with Pillsbury biscuits and a container of pumpkin pudding I bought on a whim recently... They were pretty good too, though I will tell you now that an attempt at reheating the aforementioned Pillsbury biscuits will result in a kind of taffy-like consistency that isn't appealing at all, so eat 'em while you can.

And journeys in the realm of the edible continue.

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