When it comes to entertaining, the Barefoot Contessa is a bonafide queen. Between wowing a crowd and making lovey-dovey meals for her man, Jeffrey, Ina Garten runs the world of classic cooking. When you want to take a page from her book but have less than half the time, you need to get creative. That's why we asked our trusted food editor Christine to adapt a few of Ina's classic recipes to the slow cooker. Three cheers for saving time, energy, and sanity!
Hearty beef stew is a cold-weather staple and Ina's version yields plenty for leftovers during the week. But instead of firing up your stove and breaking out the Dutch oven, you can easily transfer your chopped vegetables and chuck to a slow cooker that can do all the work for you.
Christine says: There's no need to brown the beef first, but do toss it with 1/4 cup flour (not the full amount called for in the recipe), salt, and pepper first before placing it in the slow cooker with the other ingredients. Cook on the HIGH setting until the beef is tender (stir once or twice if you can), about 5 hours. Add the peas and cook 5 minutes until heated through.
Or you can brown the meat and sauté the vegetables as directed, then transfer everything to a slow cooker. Cook on the HIGH setting until the beef is tender (stir once or twice if you can), about 5 hours. Add the peas and cook 5 minutes until heated through.
Ina's roast chicken is legendary. The classic lemon, thyme, and butter combination has made it one of the most popular chicken recipes on the planet. But if you make it in the slow cooker, the meat will be infinitely juicier and virtually falling off the bone, and all that liquid gold at the bottom will make for even better gravy than Ina even imagined.
Christine says: Season and stuff the chicken as instructed in the recipe, then place it on top of three aluminum foil balls or a rack in your slow cooker to elevate the chicken. Scatter the onion around the chicken and cook on the HIGH setting for 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours, or on the LOW setting for 4 to 5 hours. Proceed with making the gravy, and broil the chicken briefly to crisp up the skin if desired.
This traditional Italian dish typically requires tending to a pot of rice and constantly stirring in stock for 30 minutes straight. But you can also dig out the slow cooker to recreate a hands-free version of Ina's recipe. You'll need at least twice as much time, but with virtually zero effort, it's worth the wait.
Christine says: Place the rice and 4 cups of the broth in a slow cooker and cook on the HIGH setting until the rice is al dente, 1 1/2 to 2 hours (check after 1 hour and 15 minutes). Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook covered for 5 minutes more.
Layered noodles in a slow cooker may seem strange at first, but the low-and-slow method suits Ina's ultra-saucy dish perfectly.
Christine says: There is less surface area in a slow cooker than in a 9x13-inch baking dish, so making this lasagna in a slow cooker will result in more layers. Before layering, place some noodles into the slow cooker to see how many fit across in a single layer, then do the math to figure out how many noodle layers there will be.
Divide up your sauce, veggies, and cheeses to match the number of layers you need, then layer away! Make sure there is plenty of sauce at the bottom and top to keep things from drying out, and cook on the LOW setting 3 to 4 hours.
As any Barefoot Contessa fan can tell you, Ina has a knack for perfecting the seemingly simple. Her next-level buttermilk mashed spuds are no exception. Make things easier on yourself by cooking this classic side dish in your slow cooker instead. Bonus: The pot will keep them warm all through dinner.
Christine says: Place the cut potatoes, 3/4 cup milk, and salt in a slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook on the HIGH setting until the potatoes are very tender, 3 to 4 hours. (There may be some browned edges at this point — remove and discard if desired.)
Melt the butter, pour into potatoes, and mash with a potato masher. Slowly stir in the buttermilk a little bit at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Taste and season generously with salt.