Busy moms often rely on slow cookers to prepare dinner when they are at work or engaged in other chores, but the idea is hardly a new one. Colonists knew about the convenience of one-pot meals, as well. From those early settlers come the traditional boiled dinners -- a misnomer, since they are actually simmered for hours. Whether you choose a "low and slow" boiled dinner or a quick meal that really is boiled, this method of cooking in liquid lets you create tomorrow's family favorites to add to those of old.
Traditional Boiled Dinner
New England boiled dinner is probably the best known. It starts with beef brisket, simmered in water for several hours, with turnips, potatoes, carrots and cabbage added at appropriate intervals. Switch to corned beef for Irish boiled dinner or substitute ham or sausage for other variations. Give your meal a Portuguese touch by combining beef round roast, pork loin, a chicken fryer, sausage, chorizo and bacon with the root vegetables and cabbage. Serve your traditional boiled dinner with Boston brown bread or Irish soda bread for an added treat. Cook up the diced leftovers in a skillet with diced, cooked beets for Red Flannel Hash.
While many soups and stews need to simmer for a longer time, you can create some of them quickly, especially when you use store-bought stock or broth. Drizzle a beaten egg into chicken broth brought to a rolling boil. Top your egg drop soup with a few green onions and accompany it with a salad and some baked wonton or egg roll skins for a fast dinner on busy nights. For heartier fare, drop some leftover roasted or canned chicken into the boiling broth, along with sliced flour tortillas for fast, thick chicken and dumplings. If you prefer a fluffy style of dumpling, substitute quartered canned biscuits for the tortillas.
Another option for a boiled dinner is cooking vegetables and pasta together for a one-pot dish. Add broccoli and cauliflower florets about five minutes before the pasta reaches al dente and slide in julienned zucchini, yellow squash and carrots about two minutes before the end of the cooking time. Keep it simple with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite herbs or win your children's culinary hearts when you stir in some grated Parmesan, butter and milk into the drained pot for a quick sauce. Jazz your boiled dinner with cubed chicken, ham or pepperoni and top it with bite-sized balls of mozzarella or cheese cubes. A crisp green salad with creamy dressing and garlic bread round out your meal.
Shellfish is a traditional boiled dinner component, as well. Boil red potatoes and corn on the cob in seasoned water or stock and then add shrimp, crab or lobster. For an adult version of your seafood boiled dinner, dash some hot sauce into the cooking liquid. Be sure to serve a crusty bread to soak up the juices, so you don't miss one drop of flavor.
Boil wieners in water. Drain the water and add bottled or homemade barbecue sauce. Serve the hot dogs on toasted buns or cut them into bite-sized pieces before saucing and serve them over rice or noodles. Boil macaroni and cut-up frankfurters or sausages. When the pasta reaches al dente, add canned cheese soup for a fast and easy dinner your kids will approve of. Create a grown-up version of this meal by boiling cabbage and wieners or sausages together.
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- "The Family Circle Encyclopedia of Cooking"; ed. Donald D. Wolk; Lexicon Publications, Inc., 1990
- Simply Recipes; New England Boiled Dinner; March 2008
- Emerils.com: Portuguese Boiled Dinner
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images