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Dishwasher cooking: Delicacies from the "pots and pans" cycle

You read that right. It does indeed say "dishwasher cooking" as the title of this blog post. Now, it's likely that you're in one of two camps as you begin reading. You're either: a) excited by the prospect of actually being able to cook using another household appliance that isn't your oven or b) pretty sure that I'm off-my-rocker and expecting quite a bit more lunacy as you read on. If you're in camp "a": welcome; and, if you're in camp "b," well...how could I blame you? Up until just a few hours ago I was pretty sure this was an urban legend started by dishwasher repairmen looking to drum-up additional business among the gullible. Well, trust me...it's not an urban legend. That big box hiding under your counter is indeed a watery oven.

As the site lifehacker.com alludes: "An oven is an insulated box with a heating element inside. Looked at that way, is the dishwasher that much different? Sure it has spray arms for water and uses soap, but it is also insulated and has a heating element. That makes it an oven - with a few extra features thrown in."

Now, there are stories of how the dishwasher is perfect for poaching fish, steam cooking chicken or cleaning potatoes. However, the urge to try this new method in my home came on quickly and at a point already after dinner. Not to worry though, there are plenty of recipes that are dishwasher cooking appropriate for post-entree. (Admittedly, I was somewhat relieved when the list of ingredients for our treat included only items that, if necessary, could safely be eaten less than fully cooked...or even raw!) What item, pray tell, was on the menu? An old family favorite of mine: baked apple-cinnamon slices in brown sugar sauce over vanilla ice cream - simple, delicious and a recipe typically requiring a 375deg oven. So, as unconvinced as I was going into this, I've walked away a believer with five steps to help you turn double-duty on your dishwasher.

Step 1: Prep Based on what I'd read about attempts by others at this (several of which failed), I knew the cooking temperature wouldn't be directly comparable to a regular or convection style oven. So to accommodate, I made sure to cut my apple slices thinner than I normally would. This way, the brown sugar and buttery flavors could permeate the apples more easily and for a longer period. Suggestions for other dishes a la dishwasher are similar: if you're cooking chicken, cut it into strips. Are you poaching fish? Consider cooking a thin piece of tilapia or snapper fillet as opposed to a typically thick Salmon or swordfish steak. Cooking a Thanksgiving turkey? Well...let's not get carried away here, folks!

For this dish, I sliced a golden delicious apple and a red delicious apple and interspersed the thin slices in an overlapping manner in three rows. I liberally sprinkled it with a combination of brown sugar, ground cinnamon and nutmeg (ground cloves or allspice are equally worthy accompaniments here, too.) Then, as the last topping, I applied about 2 tablespoons of butter sliced thinly and broken apart.

Step 2: Packaging This step is the key to the whole process, so take your time and do it right. I recommend using a heavy duty aluminum foil, which really helps to ensure that your cooking "pouch" doesn't sustain any punctures (which unfortunately become an automatic reason to scrap the dish and start over - so it's an error to be avoided!) In my example, I started with the inner lining of the pouch as the work surface on which I laid-out the apples. Once you're done preparing the food, simply fold over the foil. Unless you're preparing something small, chances are the foil won't overlap and completely cover the item. No biggie, just use another sheet to completely wrap the item and the opening, making sure to leave enough extra to tightly roll-up the edges and seal the pouch completely. As this was my first try, I wrapped it a couple of times. (I mean I love the smell of apples and cinnamon, but I'm not a fan of my dishes permanently smelling that way!)

Step 3: Waiting Ok, so this is where the practicality of this starts to get a bit murky. It's by no means microwave-quick. You'll need to select the hottest cycle your dishwasher offers in its settings to ensure that you're "cooking" thoroughly. So, in my case this meant selecting an additional extra-hot option...and then waiting well over an hour for the complete cycle to run. Good thing I had plenty to do in the meantime, otherwise this would have been a bit monotonous. (Like hand-washing all those dinner dishes that now can't go in the dishwasher!)

Step 4: Extraction This one's easy: be careful - it's HOT. You may want to use tongs to take it out of the dishwasher. Unless you're really going for presentation, you should be able to cut through one end of the pouch and pour out the contents onto a plate or, in this case, onto a bowl full of vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Step 5: Enjoy Let me finish by reiterating: YUM. These apples were perfectly steamed and infused with the cinnamon, butter and brown sugar flavors and topped a bowl of ice cream perfectly. I was skeptical at first, but after a bit more preparation and cooking time than normal, I was truly greeted with a dish the caliber of which I was used to getting from the oven - delish!

What crazy appliance cooking stories do you have? Ever tried cooking with your dishwasher?

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