Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
We’ve entered what I semi-affectionately call slow cooker season. This is the time of year where baseball begins and we get home late two to three nights a week. I live and die by my slow cooker, a Crock Pot programmable model (see a screen shot of a shiny new one to the right). This requires dinner to be fully cooked and ready to go when I walk through the door, because there isn’t time for cooking, showers, homework and eating before bed.
Well, the truth is that last week, the first week of slow cooker season, I completely forgot. So there I was, hunting for lunch in my kitchen when I realized that I had nothing planned for dinner.
Needless to say, I didn’t have time to go to the supermarket, and I didn’t have anything in the freezer that was crock-pottable in five hours or less.
And then I remembered that a friend had said that you can make mac & cheese in a slow cooker, and the recipe stuck in my head: half a box of pasta, uncooked; 4 cups milk; 4 cups shredded cheese; 2 eggs, beaten; salt and pepper. Cook on low for four hours. I could do that.
And I did. At 2:00, after my conference call, I threw it all together, plus some ground mustard and chipotle powder that I always add to my fancier mac & cheese recipes. And four hours later, I came home to cooked mac & cheese.
Except… meh. The noodles were overcooked. Really overcooked. My slow cooker probably had them cooked through at the two hour mark. And the cheese… even though I used the same cheese mixture that I use for my four cheese mac and cheese, there was no flavor and the texture was… mediocre. It reminded me of the mac and cheese that you would get in a school cafeteria: limp and under-flavored, but you didn’t mind when you were 11, or even 21 at the university cafeteria because you had a tolerance for cheap food.
So yes, if you’re desperate for a slow cooker meal with minimal ingredients, you can do this (and honestly, there may be a situation where I do it again). But there are definitely better ways to go.