How, and when, do you use your slow cooker? If you're like me, it is primarily used through the week. It's used to cook your dinner all day, while you are off at work. My problem is that I leave for work at 6:15am and we eat dinner at 6:00pm. So, whatever I cooked in the crockpot had to cook for about 12 hours. Not a lot of things (except for beans and some soups and stews) really benefited from 12 hours of cooking.
Then one Sunday, I made dinner in the slow cooker, because something had come up through the week and I didn't get around to making it on Thursday when I was supposed to. So, while I was doing my usual Sunday things, which always ends in an afternoon wine tasting, my dinner was cooking away. Suddenly a light bulb went off. This was perfect. While I was sitting there sipping my wine, my dinner was cooking!! I didn't have to worry about getting up to chop some onions, or slice some veggies, or anything. I could relax and enjoy my wine. Not only that, but now a whole slew of recipes suddenly opened up. Recipes that only required 5-6 hours of cooking were now doable. Things that I did not want to cook to death in a long 12 hour cooking spree were an option!
So, you are regularly going to be seeing some slow cooker recipes, because, just like a spatchcocked a chicken every Sunday in the summer, I will now probably slow cook something. I am an incredibly boring creature of habit. I may be boring but this Meatballs in Tomato-Wine Sauce from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann was anything but boring. I liked the flavorful touches in this recipe, like using the wine to scrape up the bits of onion and then using some more to get all of the browned bits from the meatballs. Things like that add lovely extra layers of flavor.
Meatballs in Tomato-Wine Sauce
Sauces one pound of pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup dry red wine
one 28-oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
6 oz can tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 cup plain dry bread crumbs
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried basil, or 3/4 teaspoon fresh minced basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, or 3/4 teaspoon fresh minced oregano
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
dash of ground allspice
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry red wine
For the sauce: heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes scraping up the browned onion bits.
Add the onions and wine to the slow cooker with the rest of the sauce ingredients. Allow it to cook on high, while you prepare the meatballs.
For the meatballs: mix the ground beef with the rest of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl. Gently but thoroughly blend it (either with your hands or a large fork, but be careful not to compact the meat. Gently shape the mixture into about 12 meatballs, no bigger than a golfball.
Heat the olive oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides, about 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to slow cooker. Pour off fat from the skillet and add the wine. Cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes, scraping up the browned bits. Pour over the meatballs. If the meatballs are not covered by sauce, gently spoon some over them. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Remove bay leaf and serve.