Sunday, February 14, 2010

Slow Cooker Experiment #1: Chicken Soup

As a future scientist and overall lazy, hungry student, my instinct is to have fun playing around with things I know very little about. Here's my first experiment with Gretel (I name my appliances). (FYI, the picture below is of a slow cooker SIMILAR to Gretel; I couldn't find the same one online and I don't have a good camera around.)

At the urging of my mother and a fellow digestively-challenged friend, I got a slow cooker last Monday. So Wednesday afternoon, when I found myself bored and hungry, I decided to continue putting off homework and put my new gadget to use to make chicken soup.

Eschewing any official recipes (I mean, it's chicken soup...simple, right?), I chopped up 2 celery stalks, 4 carrots, two red potatoes, and about 1/3 of an onion. I stuck these ingredients, as well as some minced garlic, a package of cooked chicken, an undefined amount of rice, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), poured in three 8-oz boxes of organic chicken broth, and set Gretel to "High."

After about 2.5 hours, I peeked in. I probably shouldn't have put in the rice so early, since it had disintegrated into tiny flakes. "It's all right," I said to myself. "It's not like I can thicken it with flour anyway--this is actually serendipitous!" I added some spinach for good measure (and because I've had it in my fridge for over a week) and waited.

Two hours later, the vegetables didn't look like they were going to be softening all the way anytime soon. So I turned off Gretel and called it a night.

Thursday morning, I decided that I didn't have time to wait around and see if the carrots and potatoes were going to soften, so I poured about two cups of the now-gunky mixture into my rice cooker, added some water so that it wouldn't congeal, cooked it for about twenty minutes, then poured it into a disposable tupperware (releasing all sorts of toxins, of course) for lunch. I had this and apple sauce for lunch before my five-hour lab.

It was really good. The rice had completely mixed with the broth by now, giving the "soup" a creamy, soothing consistency. Later in the day, I added an egg to the soup while it was simmering in my rice cooker, both to add protein and to get rid of the eggs that might already be going bad in my fridge.

Anyway, I ended up eating this sludge up until Saturday morning, which was probably unhealthy since 1. repeating food for three days is not good 2. I didn't refrigerate it. But whatever, it's healthier than what I usually end up eating.

Lessons learned:

  • Add rice closer to the end unless the intent is to make something that is viscous enough to act as mortar.
  • Don't make enough "soup" to feed the cast of Lost.
  • Experimenting with food is fun, messy, and delicious (but I already knew this).

Conclusion: Gretel is pretty awesome, and I intend to use her pretty often, though I might think about following a real recipe next time.

Snaps for experimentation!