I've been getting into using a crockpot lately. I have an old, basic crockpot. It makes huge amounts. Kevin doesn't care to eat the same thing for dinner all week long. The original dinner plus one dinner of leftovers, maybe two, is his limit. (IIUC, crockpots should be 1/2 to 3/4 full to operate best, so you can't just make much smaller amounts in a big crockpot.) Me, I could eat the same thing all week as long as it was yummy. Actually, if someone else cooks for me I'll eat it even if it's yucky. Thing is, Kevin does most of the dinner cooking around here (he made a delicious beef rib roast yesterday!) bc he's home by himself a few nights and he's more motivated than I am to have something more interesting than Cheerios. Making crockpot dinners is my way of making my share of dinners. Plus, it's easy and makes the whole house smell yummy.
When I found this great crockpot cookbook, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two: For the Small Slow Cooker by Beth Hensperger, I took the opportunity to get a small (2 quart) crockpot. This recipe is from the book, which is designed for crockpots from 1.5 to 3 quarts. Notes and variations I made are in italics. I did use my old crockpot for this recipe bc my new 2 quart one was way too small. The book says, 'Serves 2 generously with leftovers'. Two giants, maybe. I think we got 6 servings out of this recipe. Leftovers reheat and travel well.
As an aside, I don't know why 'crockpots' are now called 'slow cookers'. I mean, true, they do cook things slowly, but why bother with the name change? I wonder if 'crockpot' sounds too old-fashioned and 'slow cooker' is a way to make 'crockpot' cooking more attractive to a new generation of cooks. Bah. I'll stick w/the old school 'crockpot'.
Cooker: 3 quart (I used my old big one; don't know what size it is.)
Settings and cook times: HIGH for 30 minutes, then LOW for 2 to 2.5 hours
- 1-1/2 c. milk (I used 2% and it came out fine)
- one 12 oz. can evaporated milk (can use skim, fat free, whole...whatever version of evaporated milk you want)
- 3 large eggs
- 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 3 c. (12 oz.) shredded Italian fontina cheese
- did not find a fontina labelled 'Italian'; found and used a Swiss or Swedish fontina
- use a 9 oz. block bc:
- the cheese came in 9 oz. blocks and I didn't feel like opening a second block
- the 9 oz. shredded up to 3 c.
- I might try 12 oz. next time, but it was cheesey enough - even for me - with 9 oz.
- 1/2 lb. elbow macaroni or mini penne tubes, parcooked and drained
- on my first go round w/this recipe:
- I boiled the pasta until al dente and the pasta came out kinda bloated in the final product
- I put the pasta in with the already assembled ingredients in the pot, which inlcuded the milk products, immediately after draining; that seemed to produce further cooking reaction which may have led to a chunkiness in the cheesy part in the final product that I did not care for
- on my second go round:
- I boiled the pasta for 3-4 minutes and the final product was much better; could probably also get away with 2-3 minutes
- I ran cold water over the pasta after draining and before adding it to the pot; no chunkiness in the final product
- on my first go round w/this recipe:
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
- in the second go round with this recipe, added:
- bacon - approx. 3/4 lb. of crisp bacon, chopped
- roasted red peppers - approx. 1/2 jar of drained, chopped roasted red peppers; could have used more, probably a whole jar, but this was what I had on hand
- in future, will try adding other things like:
- chopped green veggies, e.g., asparagus, green beans, etc.
- Spray the bottom and sides of the inside of the slow cooker with nonstick vegetable spray or grease with olive oil.
- Combine the milk, evaporated milk, eggs, butter and salt in the slow cooker and whisk until smooth, by hand or using an immersion blender.
- Add the fontina cheese and macaroni.
- Grind plenty of black pepper over all; gently stir with a rubbert spatula to coat evenly.
- Sprinkle the parmesan cheese on the top.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 30 minutes.
- Reduce the temperature to LOW and cook for 2 to 2.5 hours, until the custard is set in the center and the pasta is tender.
- Fold in optional ingredients (e.g., bacon, ham, veggies, etc.) approximately 1/2 hour before cook time ends.
- The macaroni and cheese may sit in the cooker on the KEEP WARM setting for 30 minute before serving.
An aerial shot:
Close up of the cheesy goodness: