The ubiquitous slow cooker was conceived by some revolutionary thinker at Chicago’s Naxon Utilities Corporation sometime before 1964. Called the “bean pot,” the device was little more than a pot with a built-in low-wattage electrical coil. The device went all but unnoticed until the Rival corporation purchased Naxon in 1970, primarily to get at their lucrative sun lamp and laundry equipment business. The head of home economics at Rival discovered the diamond in the rough, gussied it up a bit and unleashed the “Crock Pot” on the world in 1971. By ’75, sales were up to 93 million. Then along came the microwave and the need for speed overtook the culinary collective. Luckily, cooks have rediscovered the long-lost ingredient that is time, and the Crock Pot is back. I much prefer the old-school, three setting analog models to the modern digital ones if for no other reason than that I can use a hardware store — issue lamp/appliance timer to turn it on and off without having to be in the house. That and I dig harvest gold.
Slow Cooker Lasagna
- 1 pound lasagna noodles
- 1 small eggplant (quartered lengthwise and sliced on mandoline)
- 1 small zucchini (sliced lengthwise on mandoline)
- 1 pound hot and mild beef sausage links (preferably grass fed)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 14.5 ounces canned whole tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 ounce all-purpose flour
- 1/2 ounce goat’s milk powder*
- 2 large portobello mushroom caps (cut into 3/16-inch-thick strips)
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella (grated)
- Put the noodles in a 9-by-13-inch metal pan and pour enough hot water over to cover. Set aside for 30 minutes or until pliable. Drain the noodles, separate them, and set aside.
- Put the eggplant and zucchini in the bowl of a salad spinner. Sprinkle with the salt and purge for 20 minutes, tossing after the first 10 minutes.
- Remove the sausage from its casing and chop or pinch into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside.
- Rinse the eggplant and zucchini under running water and spin until mostly dry.
- Use 4 noodles to line the sides of a 2.5- to 3-quart slow cooker. Overlap the noodles slightly and press against the sides so they stick.
- Crush 1 tomato with your hand into the bottom of the slow cooker.
- Cover with half of the sausage.
- Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasoning, 1/4 of the flour, and 1/4 of the milk powder. Add 1/4 of the purged vegetables in a layer, slightly overlapping the pieces. Add 1/4 of the mushrooms in a layer. Add 1/4 of the remaining noodles in a layer, cut to fit any gaps, slightly overlapping the pieces. Gently press down on the noodles before building next layer.
- Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8, substituting half of the pork for the sausage.
- Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8, using the remaining sausage.
- Repeat steps 6, 7 and 8, using the remaining pork.
- Spread 2 tablespoons of the tomato juice from the can on the top of the last layer of noodles.
- Cook on low for 4 hours, or until a knife easily slides through the layers. Degrease according to note below. Turn off the slow cooker, top with the cheese**, cover, and leave for 15 minutes before serving.
*You can substitute the same amount of non-fat dry milk if you can’t find goat’s milk powder.
**If you want your cheese browned, hit it with your blowtorch or a hardware-store heat gun.
One of the most common lasagna-centric complaints is that it’s often greasy, what with all that sausage. This is indeed a difficult issue to wrangle when a rectangular vessel is involved. Cooking deep and round presents far more effective options. Simply place a lid from a 2-quart saucepan on top of the cooked dish and press gently downward. The fat will gurgle up the sides and into the top of the lid pretty as you please. When full, simply lift up and discard as you wish. Repeat until you’re happy with your grease content.