After trying out a few recipes from Roger Ebert's The Pot and How to Use It it dawned on me that the rice cooker might be even more useful than a crock pot for those of us who live in small spaces. While the crock pot is wonderful for long-braised meals involving slow simmering, I've never used it for simply steamed rice or vegetables.
But when it comes down to it, the two function very similarly, both capable of sustaining a low level of heat that's perfect for long-cooking dishes like chili. In The Pot and How to Use It, Ebert shares a very broad recipe for rice cooker chili that goes something like this:
Just how you'd figure: beans, ground or chunk beef or vegetable protein, onions, garlic. That's basic. Then maybe some peppers, maybe some bacon, maybe some cocoa powder, tomatoes or try stewed tomatoes (bigger tomato chunks cut up), and chili powder, garam masala, or the hot peppers of your choice.
His version is for those who are already comfortable with recipe-free cooking and the whims of rice cooker heat. But for those of us who like a bit more precise measurements, here's a recipe from Jerry, a commenter on Roger Ebert's blog and chili aficionado who perfected this version for a rice cooker. Apart from browning the beef on the stove, the rest of the effort lies in opening a few cans of beans and tomatoes (and making sure you shut off the rice cooker in the morning). The flavor is indistinguishable from the chilis that I've spent hours slowly stirring and checking up on, making me think that the rice cooker should be redubbed the "chili cooker."
- 2 pounds ground round
- 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cans kidney beans, drained
- 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
Brown the ground round in a skillet and drain.
Sauté onions in olive oil in the rice cooker.
Combine with all the remaining ingredients in a rice cooker and mix thoroughly.
Put on Warm and cook for 8 to 10 hours.