Even if your Crock-Pot makes few appearances in your life, March is the time to drag it out from under the counter behind the big pots.
St. Patrick’s Day corned beef is one of those foolproof slow-cooker meals: Put in pot with liquid and spice packet, turn to low, go away for 10 hours.
But for Part 3 of my series, "Slow Ono," a monthly exploration of local-style slow-cooking, I’ve got something different you can try this March 17. Idea credit goes to Wade Ueoka, a chef with Alan Wong’s restaurant, who once made a pot of corned beef soup at home. He used Italian sausage, russet potatoes and savoy cabbage, but suggested trying kim chee and any type of sausage. I suggested araimo, or Japanese taro, in place of the potatoes.
It was beginning to sound slooow ono.
It so happens that Don Quixote was having a sale on Kukui Sausage Co. products — I picked the pastele variety made with pork and bananas. It was a good choice, along with the araimo, which cooks up buttery soft and absorbs all the flavors. Speaking of flavors, I threw in a scoop of guava jelly to give the soup a sweet edge. If this sounds too weird you can leave it out, but I found it gives the broth a rich, intriguing taste.
Now, note that this soup is not at all lean. A variation at the end of the recipe offers ways to cut back the fat and sodium.
"Slow Ono" continues on the first Wednesday of each month. Tune in April 6 for a slow-cooker short-rib stew.
Spicy Corned Beef Soup with Kim Chee and Guava
2-1/2 to 3 pounds corned beef, cut in 10 to 12 chunks
1 large onion, in thin wedges
1 pound sausage (Italian, Portuguese or any other type)
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 cup water
1 sprig rosemary
2 pounds araimo (small Japanese taro), peeled, or 2 large potatoes, peeled and cut in large pieces
12 ounces won bok or head cabbage kim chee, drained
1/2 cup guava jelly
4 cups spicy greens (watercress, sliced mustard cabbage or sliced chard)
Soak corned beef in water 1 hour; drain to reduce salt.
Place meat, onions and sausage in 6-quart slow-cooker. Add garlic. Sprinkle with crushed pepper. Add water. Top with rosemary. Place araimo or potato on top (they will get too soft if mixed in with meat). Cook 8 to 9 hours on low.
Remove araimo or potatoes and rosemary. Stir in kim chee and jelly. Cook another hour, or until meat is tender.
Skim fat. Taste broth. If it is too salty, add 1 to 2 cups water. Mix in greens and let steep briefly until wilted. Return araimo or potatoes to pot. Serves 10.
To reduce sodium and fat: Replace sausage with 2 cans garbanzo beans and/or eliminate kim chee and add another teaspoon chili peppers. You could also refrigerate the broth to let the fat solidify, then scoop it out.
A simpler approach
For basic Crock-Pot corned beef, place sliced onions in bottom of a 5- or 6-quart slow-cooker. Lay a 3- to 4-pound corned beef on top, with contents of spice packet. Add 1 cup water or (better) beer. Place large pieces of carrots and potatoes on top. Cook on low 8 to 10 hours, until meat is very tender. To keep potatoes and carrots from getting too soft, remove early. Add sliced cabbage to pot in last 30 minutes.
To add a little isle style, mix equal parts guava jelly and mustard and spread over corned beef before cooking. The broth will take on a deep, sweet flavor.