• Stir It Up: Doubling down for dinner
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     | October 18,2013
     
    Christopher Hornaday Photo

    Tired of leftovers? Use your slow cooker to make Lime pot roast with tomato sauce for tonight and Vinegar-braised pot roast (not pictured) for tomorrow. The photo is from “Slow Cooking for Two” by Cynthia Graubart.

    Cooking for two presents certain challenges. Most recipes are created to serve at least four, if not six or eight. Meat and fish are often packaged in “family-size” quantities. Fresh herbs are sold in bunches big enough to feed a small army. An appliance such as a slow cooker seems like overkill.

    If you and your cohabitant are lovers of leftovers, you’ll do fine. There’s nothing better than cooking up a big pot of soup or stew, or chili, and eating well for several nights running, or packing up the leftovers for lunch at work or school. For you, a slow cooker can be essential.

    But if you hate leftovers, you may feel daunted by the many servings. Here’s where cookbook author Cynthia Graubart comes to the rescue. She dislikes large quantities of leftovers, so her new cookbook, “Slow Cooking for Two,” includes a chapter on “double dinners”: making two distinct recipes from one main ingredient.

    The idea is this: You buy one piece of meat — say, a chuck roast. Typically, the smallest piece of chuck available at the market weighs 2 to 2½ pounds. You cut the meat in half and put each half into its own slow-cooker liner bag. You add different ingredients to the two bags. You place them side by side in your slow cooker and — ta-da! — you have one dinner for tonight and an entirely different flavor combination for tomorrow, or to freeze for future enjoyment. If you want to be super-efficient, make enough mashed potatoes, rice or other starch to serve four to six people, and save (or freeze) half for the second meal.

    You’ll need a 3½-quart slow cooker, preferably an oval shaped one, as it is easier to fit two bags side by side. The slow-cooker liner bags you’ll also need are sold in the same aisle of the supermarket as plastic wrap and foil.

    If you happen to like leftovers, however, feel free to choose just one of the preparations below and double the recipe. (Since you won’t be needing a slow-cooker liner bag, just remember to spray the inside of the slow cooker insert before you add ingredients.) You’ll eat very well for a few days. Cynthia Graubart need never know.



    Double Dinner: Pot Roast Two Ways

    For Lime Pot Roast With Tomato Sauce

    Yield: 2 to 3 servings

    Half of a 2- to 2½-pound chuck roast

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Grated zest of 1 lime

    3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

    2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

    1 cup beef broth, canned or homemade

    ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

    1 (14½-ounce) can crushed tomatoes



    For Vinegar-Braised Pot Roast

    Yield: 2 to 3 servings

    Half of a 2- to 2½-pound chuck roast

    Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    1 small onion, peeled and sliced

    ½ cup strong brewed coffee (can be hot, warm or cold)

    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

    2 sprigs rosemary, or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed



    Sprinkle each piece of meat liberally with salt and pepper. Place each chuck roast in the bottom of a slow-cooker liner bag, one bag for each piece of meat. Add remaining ingredients, in order, to the bag. Close each bag.

    Place both liner bags, side by side, in the slow cooker. Drape each closed liner bag away from the other, extending over the sides of the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

    Move two large shallow serving dishes or bowls next to the slow cooker. Remove cover and, using potholders or oven mitts, carefully remove each liner and its contents to its own serving bowl. Open the liner bags and let them rest while contents cool slightly. Remove one piece of meat from one liner using tongs and transfer to the serving bowl. Then grasp the top of the bag and cut a corner off the bottom of the bag, large enough to allow the remaining contents of the bag to be released over the beef and into the bowl. Discard the liner. Repeat with the other dinner.

    Serve one dinner immediately, seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed.

    Allow the dinner not being served to cool, and cover and refrigerate it for use within three days. If freezing, package in an airtight freezer bag or container, leaving about an inch of head room. Label and freeze up to three months. Thaw, heat and taste for salt and pepper before serving.

    (Recipe from “Slow Cooking for Two: Basic Techniques and Recipes” by Cynthia Graubart; Gibbs Smith, 2013)



    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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