I’ve had this cookbook–The Best Slow Cooker Cookbook Ever by Natalie Haughton–for about six or seven years now. I got it when I lived in Colorado and was dating a guy who liked to cook, which kind of/sort of inspired me to attempt some more daring cooking. My one and only specialty dish–the one I can actually claim fame for among my friends–is my white (chicken) chili. I have perfected my chili over the years and can pretty much do it without looking at the instructions anymore. It is cooked slowly over 3-4 hours in a crock pot. I usually get everything together in the crock pot the night before I intend to eat it, then I set it on low and let it stew all day while I’m at work. I usually open the door to my home to the lovely smell of garlic and pepper on these days… very nice! And it’s totally ready to eat.
I always keep the recipe card for my white chili between the pages of The Best Slow Cooker. So a few weeks ago when I reached into the book to recheck that I had all the required ingredients, I found myself looking through the pages at all the other recipes. I must have looked in the book before for there were post-it notes marking a few recipes and my mouth watered when I read the description of the “Curried Pumpkin Bisque.” I was immediately intimidated because the instructions indicated that I would have to “puree” mixture at some point. I fretted about not having the “proper equipment” to perform this procedure. I wasn’t sure I had the mad cooking skills to accomplish this recipe. However, after consulting my mother and learning that I could use a blender to puree something, I nervously decided that maybe I should give it the old college try.
The most difficult part of this endeavor was procuring all the correct ingredients. I did not know what Madras curry was and I could not find it at my local Giant Eagle. It took several attempts before I realized that I wouldn’t find it in the spices section where I originally thought, but rather in the area of the store selling Indian or Mediterranean items. When I put the query out on FB about Madras curry, my friends assured me that I could probably just use the curry I had around the house. But I was determined that I needed to follow the recipe exactly as written, for I’m not creative enough at this point in my cooking career to just improvise ingredients. It was all or nothing. Though, I did eventually compromise on green onions for scullions as I could not find anything labeled scullions at the store. (I know, you’re thinking I’m a complete cooking retard.)
Anyway, I’m proud to say that the experience was a complete success. Not only did I cook the recipe correctly, but it turned out to be really scrumptiously delish! A pumpkin lover’s dream! And it was after this success that I decided that I’m going to try one slow cooker recipe from this book a month this winter… I’m going to find something that sounds delish and then I’m going to attempt to make it. I’m going to become a connoisseur of unique slow cooker dishes, dammit, if it embarrasses me to try. Perhaps it is time I gave up my lifelong determination to not learn to cook, which started out of fear that a man would force me to be his woman servant, cooking his dinner and waiting on him hand and foot. Yes, believe it or not, but I had a fierce determination to refuse to cook because I did not want a man order me to cook his dinner for him; I feared simply knowing how to cook would encourage this behavior. I didn’t want to any man to expect me to have dinner waiting when he got home from work. (Ha, but did I mind it when the situation was reversed, as it was in my marriage, when I arrived home to a cooked meal? No! That was retribution for all the women in the world who were repressed to a life of servitude, I say!)
I’ve pretty much figured out that learning to cook is a benefit to me. To my survival. After nearly 10 years of living by myself, I grow tired of the many microwave cuisines I’ve invented for myself. You can only eat so many different combinations of vegetables with a potato in a lifetime. Or Lipton ready-mix pasta with potato. Or some sort of meat with some sort of vegetable. Or, my standard classic: a tasteless stir fry (tasteless because I never know what spices to put in, so it’s basically just some stir-fried veggies on top of white rice with soy sauce… good combo but bland…).
Well, I thought I’d wrap up with sharing the Curried Pumpkin Bisque recipe. If you’re not following the recipe as strictly as I did, you may have better ideas to improvise. I’ve included my own notes.
Ingredients (Makes 8 to 10 Servings)
1 (29-oz) can solid-pack pumpkin
4 cups homemade (*cough, cough*) chicken broth or canned chicken broth (as Mars Girl would do)
2 medium onions, chopped (by accident, I ended up using two sweet onions just because they were medium in size. I don’t know if this made a difference in the result or not since I am not an expert on onions)
2 garlic cloves, crushed through a press (and, yes, I own a garlic press thanks to Pampered Chef)
1 1/2 tbs Madras curry powder (a must! this stuff smells great!)
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (miracle of miracles, I had this!)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp sugar (I did not end up using this… the heavy cream and the milk add enough sweetness that I think the sugar is unnecessary.)
1 or 2 (4.5 oz) cans of mushrooms (Mars Girl used two cans because Mars Girl LOOOOVES fungus!)
Sour cream and chopped scullions (whatever those are) or crisp bacon bits for garnish (not being much of a sour cream fan, I did not use this… I did add green onions, though, for “garnish.”)
1. In a 3 1/2 quart electric slow cooker, mix together pumpkin, broth, onions, garlic, curry powder, and seasoned salt.
2. Cover and cook on the high heat setting for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Carefully puree the hot soup in 2 or 3 batches in a blender or food processor until as smooth as possible. Return to the slow cooker.
3. Stir in the cream, milk, sugar (or not), and mushrooms. Cover and cook on high for 15 to 30 minutes longer. Serve immediately in soup bowls garnished with sour cream (or not) and scallions or bacon bits.
YUM! I found it tastes great if you have some bread to dip into it, too. Well, what soup does NOT taste better with some dipping bread?
So… next month I think I’m going to try the other recipe with the post-it note stuck to it: Curried Lamb with White Beans. Do I sense a theme? Guess what? It calls for that Madras curry powder again, which I now have an entire jar of at my disposal. It must have been the author’s favorite curry mix or something. The recipe also calls for cumin–my second favorite spice! And 1 cup of white wine! Does this mean I get to open a bottle for cooking, and then drink the rest? If so, I think I am going to like this cooking thing…!