3 Trendy Recipes You Can Make In Your Slow Cooker

Slow cookers are our handy go-to for big-batch dishes, like game-day chili or stew. But, beyond those throw-together comfort foods, the gadget just kind of sits on our counter, taking up space. However, slow cookers are actually major power players in the kitchen — because as it turns out, the big electric pot isn't just for soups and stews.

The clunky contraptions are more modern and versatile than we ever imagined them to be — or gave them enough credit for — and here to prove it are three recipes from Sarah DiGregorio's Adventures In Slow Cooking. Are adventures and slow cookers two concepts that you still wouldn't necessarily combine? If yes, then you've probably never feasted on an egg, cheese, and everything bagel strata for brunch — or been blessed with the dessert knowledge that matcha pots de crème are only a "set it and forget it" button away. Scroll on for these tricks and more that will illuminate your slow cooker's true trendy potential.

Egg, Cheese, & Everything Bagel Strata (NYC Bodega Special)
Serves 6

Ingredients
3 large everything bagels (12 to 13 oz. total), cut into 1-in. pieces
8 oz. American cheese, chopped small (about 2 heaping cups)
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 heaping cup)
10 large eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 ¾ tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pep

Instructions
1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F. Spread out the bagel pieces on a rimmed bak­ing sheet and bake until quite dry, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare a 5- to 7-qt. slow cooker: Fold a large piece of foil into a 3 × 12-in. strip and press it against the side of the insert that runs the hottest, using the foil like a collar or a shield. The hot spot is probably the wall of the insert opposite (farthest from) the control panel. This will keep that side of the strata from scorching or cooking too quickly. If your slow cooker runs very hot and tends to over brown on all sides, line the other side with a foil collar as well. Then line the entire insert with 1 piece of parchment, making sure the parchment comes up at least 2 in. on all sides. This is to prevent sticking and also to make it easier to reach in and remove the strata. (You’re using 1 piece of parchment so that the egg mixture doesn’t run between 2 layers of parchment when you pour it in.)

3. Put half the bagel pieces into the prepared insert. Top with half the cheeses. Put the remaining bagel pieces on top and then the remaining cheeses. In a medium bowl or large liquid measuring cup, beat together the eggs and milk. Season with the salt and several generous grinds of pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the bagels and cheese, keeping all the liquid contained in the parchment liner and making sure all the bagel pieces are moistened. Cover and cook until the custard is just set but still jiggly in the middle: on HIGH for 2 hours followed by WARM for 6 hours; on HIGH for 2 hours 30 minutes; or on LOW for 4 hours.

4. Uncover the slow cooker and turn it off. Let the strata rest forabout 10 minutes. Grabbing the edges of the parchment liner, lift the strata out of the insert and put it on a cutting board. Serve warm or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

From Adventures in Slow Cooking by Sarah DiGregorio. Copyright © 2017 by Sarah DiGregorio. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Toby’s Pizza Pasta With Black Garlic & Pancetta
Serves 6

Ingredients
4 oz. pancetta, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb. large pasta shells
Cloves from 2 black garlic heads, halved*
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced, or, in a real pinch, pre-shredded mozzarella

Instructions
1. Put the pancetta into a large dry skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the fat renders and the bits start to get golden, about 4 minutes. Remove the pancetta with a slotted spoon, leaving its fat behind, and place it on a paper towel to drain. Reserve the crisped pancetta in the fridge.

2. Add the oil and butter to the skillet over medium-high heat and let the butter melt. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms soften, give off their mois­ture, shrink, and start to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and vinegar and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes. Pour water into the can, swish it around to get out any remaining tomato, and add the water to the skillet. Stir in the oregano and red pepper flakes. Scrape the sauce into a 5- to 8-qt. slow cooker and cover. Cook on LOW until the sauce’s flavors have mellowed and married, about 6 hours.

3. Preheat the broiler on high and position a rack 6 in. from the heat source (if that’s how your broiler is configured). Cook the pasta in boil­ing salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, ladle the warm sauce into a 9 × 13-in. baking dish and toss in the black garlic cloves. Drain the pasta and toss it with the sauce. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Top the pasta evenly with the moz­zarella slices and scatter the reserved crisp pancetta bits on top. Broil until the mozzarella is melted and browned in spots, 3 to 4 minutes.

*Black garlic is just regular garlic that’s been aged until it has lost its pungency and become sweetish and soft, almost like a dried fruit. It’s available at Trader Joe’s, some Whole Foods, and Amazon.

From Adventures in Slow Cooking by Sarah DiGregorio. Copyright © 2017 by Sarah DiGregorio. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Matcha−White Chocolate Pots De Crème
Serves 6

Ingredients
3 large egg yolks
4 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp matcha powder
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Additional white chocolate, shaved with a vegetable peeler, for topping

Instructions
1. Whisk together the egg yolks in a large (at least 4-cup) liquid measuring cup or spouted bowl and set aside. Put the white chocolate into a separate medium bowl. Pour 2 cups water into a 6-qt. or larger slow cooker.

2. Combine the sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Put the matcha into a fine-mesh strainer set over the saucepan and shake the strainer to sift the matcha into the saucepan. Set the strainer aside by resting it over the measuring cup holding the egg yolks. Stir together the sugar, salt, and matcha. Add the cream to the saucepan, a tiny bit at a time, whisk­ing to incorporate each time. When you’ve added ½ cup or so of cream, you should have a uniform paste with no lumps. (If you simply added all the liquid at once, the matcha would clump up.) When you have a smooth paste, add the remaining cream and the milk, whisking to combine. Stir in the vanilla.

3. Turn the heat on medium-high and cook, whisking often, until the mixture just starts to simmer. (Watch it when it starts steaming, be­cause once it boils, it will bubble over the sides of the pot quickly.) Pour the hot matcha mixture over the white chocolate in the bowl and let it sit for 3 minutes, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mix­ture is smooth. Pour the matcha–white chocolate mixture through the fine-mesh strainer set over the yolks, then immediately whisk well to combine. Divide the mixture evenly among six 4-oz. oven-safe ramekins.

4. Carefully place the ramekins into your slow cooker, making sure not to jostle any water into the ramekins. You might be able to set them all in the cooker in a single layer. If not, place 4 or 5 ramekins into the in­sert and then balance the remaining 1 or 2 ramekins on top of the others. The water should come about halfway up the sides of the bottom layer of ramekins. Place a double layer of paper towels over the top of the insert to soak up condensation, leaving some overhang so that the paper towels don’t fall onto the ramekins, and then close the lid on top of the paper towels. Cook on LOW for 2 hours 30 minutes, until the custards are set but still jiggly.

5. Turn off and uncover the slow cooker. Let the ramekins cool for a few minutes before removing them from the cooker. Let cool to room tem­perature before serving, topped with a bit of shaved white chocolate. Or, to chill them, let them cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic onto the surface of the custard to prevent it from forming a skin, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Let them sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before topping with white chocolate and serving.

From Adventures in Slow Cooking by Sarah DiGregorio. Copyright © 2017 by Sarah DiGregorio. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Adventures in Slow Cooking by Sarah DiGregorio, $17.71, available at Amazon.