Food column: Retro Potatoes au Gratin and Blueberry Cobbler
The first thing I associate with a Crock Pot is the 1970s. It also reminds me of my childhood. My grandmother used a Crock Pot often. She made soup, stews and roasts primarily. She liked it best for making her favorite vegetable stews. She found it easier to use than conventional cooking methods, since she could start in the morning, leave the house to run errands, and come home to find a fully cooked meal. Even today, she constantly reminds me how I can use it to make my life easier. There’s no excuse for not eating home cooked meals.
Many people think the term slow cooker and Crock Pot are the same, but in reality, they are two different things. All Crock Pots are slow cookers, but other slow cookers exist with different brand names. Crock Pot is really just a brand name that is synonymous for a revolution in American cooking. It is nearly 80 years old, but it only became widely popular in the 1970s, hence part of my association. There are a few reasons it became popular. More women entered the working force, so it helped them work and feed their families. As my grandmother found, it was easier to cook for a family using these slow cookers.
In the last few years, a new type of cooker has been all the rage. The Instant Pot is a slow cooker that is also a pressure cooker, steamer and more. The so-called “Millenial Generation” has been charmed by the notion of putting raw ingredients in to a single device and having an entire meal emerge like magic. It saves us time and can use less energy than conventional cooking. There are many options too. Unfortunately, I haven’t played with an Instant Pot yet, but I still have the vintage Crock Pot my grandmother gave me. It’s the same one she’s had since the late 1970s. I use it often.
Growing up, I did indeed have a lot of roasts and stews. They were great, but I like to try new things, so I went to Pinterest for some unique Crock Pot recipes. This time, I have decided to make potatoes au gratin and blueberry cobbler. I was able to get all of the ingredients I need at City Market, except for the rosé. I also bought a loaf of baguette bread and a pre-mixed kale salad. The recipes for the potatoes au gratin and blueberry cobbler are below.
I did have some issues with the potatoes au gratin following the recipe I found. They took a lot longer to cook. I don’t know if I should blame the altitude or 1970s technology. I modified the recipes I’ve shared to reflect the cooking time I actually needed. The blueberry cobbler turned out perfectly per the recipe’s cooking time. I served the main dish with a side salad and oven toasted baguette bread. I also served vanilla ice cream with the cobbler. I paired the entire meal with a bottle of Crèmant de Limoux Brut Rosé wine. As I usually do, I modified the recipes to give them my own signature. I used a lot of real butter in this, but it can be replaced by butter alternatives. Finally, other slow cookers can be substituted for the Crock Pot, but cooking time may vary.
Potatoes au Gratin
(Serves 4-5 people)
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced thinly
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons high altitude all purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 cups Cheddar cheese, sliced or shredded
2 cups Gruyère cheese, sliced thinly
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon curry
Pinch of salt and pepper
1. Spray the Crock Pot (or slow cooker) with nonstick spray. I actually rubbed a stick of butter on the inside of mine.
2. In a medium to small-sized saucepan melt butter over medium-high heat. Once butter melts, turn heat down to medium-low, so the butter doesn’t scorch.
3. Slowly add flour to melted butter while constantly whisking for about one minute.
4. Whisk in milk. Turn heat to medium and whisk until mixture becomes firmer and can form peaks.
5. Add 1 cup of both Cheddar and Gruyère cheeses and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
6. Add layers of potatoes, onions, remaining cheeses and the melted butter sauce. Alternate these layers until Crock Pot is filled. Optional: Add top layer of breadcrumbs once filled.
7. Cover and cook on high for five to six hours. If the sides start to cook too quickly, then turn heat down to low to finish cooking time. This is best served warm. Garnish with parsley.
(Serves 4 -5 people)
1 cup high altitude all purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sour cream
2 cups blueberries
1. Preheat Crock Pot (or slow cooker) to high setting about 30 minutes before beginning.
2. Whisk together flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Mix until powder is thoroughly combined.
3. Slowly stir in water, sour cream and eggs to dry mix. Combine until a consistent batter is formed and no lumps remain. Squeeze half of a lemon juice into batter and blend thoroughly.
4. Spay Crock Pot with nonstick spray, and pour batter into it. Smooth with spoon or spatula.
5. Stir together blueberries, remaining white sugar and juice from half of a lemon in a medium mixing bowl.
6. Pour blueberries on top of batter in the Crock Pot. Smooth with spoon or spatula. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and turbinado sugar.
7. Turn temperature to low and cook for three hours. When it’s done cooking, gently lift from Crock Pot (I struggled here) and allow time to cool. Add whipped cream and pieces of chocolate to the top. Serve with vanilla ice cream on the side.