June Naylor 2017-12-25 03:19:34
Beyond Chili Bread pudding? Enchiladas? Chicken stock? Embrace the slow cooker and all that it can do. Just as the Instant Pot wins over a big chunk of the cooking population, the slow cooker is winning new support from chefs and other food experts. While hearty stews and chili are the reason we dust it off in the cold months, the slow cooker’s diversity proved irresistible to James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Cheryl Jamison. A one-time Dallasite who now lives in Santa Fe, her Texas Slow Cooker (Harvard Common Press, $22.99) sold out its first printing almost immediately. Subtitled 125 Recipes for the Lone Star State’s Very Best Dishes, All Slow-Cooked to Perfection, the book was partially inspired by her daughter in Austin, who credits the slow cooker with helping her family of five avoid unhealthy fast-food meals several days a week. “A cook preparing food at home has total control over how much sugar or sodium goes into a dish. Slow cooking gives busy families a decent shot at having a brief sit-down with the gang to share a good, easy meal between lacrosse, dance class and theater practice,” Jamison says. She also addresses the slow cooker’s image problem. Serious chefs “are in awe of their fancy sous vide machines for cooking very low and slow, but they look down on the home cook’s accessible device.” Jamison’s recipes are a far cry from those of a generation ago, when we piled a bunch of stuff in the slow cooker and left it unattended for hours. It’s no surprise that everything looked and tasted like gray beef stew. She revs up her dishes by adding toasted bread crumbs, finely chopped herbs, citrus zest, pumpkin and sesame seeds, chopped nuts and grated raw veggies during cooking — which you can’t do with a pressure cooker — and after. And her research delighted her with the slow cooker’s possibilities: a puffy German apple pancake, chile relleno casserole, chicken wings in a jalapeno-peach sauce, skirt steak with chimichurri plus a turkey mole, all recipes included in her book. Here’s to smarter and slower cooking. 5 new ways to embrace the slow cooker Keep making your signature chili, but also try these tips from local chefs: Poached eggs Poach several eggs at once, cracking eggs into individual ramekins and placing them in the slow cooker you’ve filled with water to a ½-inch depth. Rice and pasta Paella comes out perfectly; ditto for risotto. Jamison says she was skeptical about putting raw pasta with other ingredients into the slow cooker and was pleasantly surprised at how well mac and cheese bakes into a finished dish. Mexican food Slow cook meats to use for tacos, or take a cue from Kevin Martinez, chef at Tokyo Cafe in Fort Worth. He and wife Christy make stacked enchiladas, first preparing the chicken in the cooker, then layering the tortillas, shredded meat and cheese, and cooking them low and slow. Stock The low temperature removes the risk of reducing the liquid too much. Chef Jen Williams, who has been cooking pop-up dinners lately at The Collective Brewing Project in Fort Worth, loves using the slow cooker — she owns four of them — for their versatility and the fact that they free up oven space. Desserts Jamison includes a whole chapter on sweets she enjoys preparing in her slow cooker. Peach cobbler, praline bread pudding and flan are just a few. She marvels that the cheesecake doesn’t crack and that the chocolate sheet cake stays moist for days. Pro tips for the home kitchen Want more? These titles were released in 2017. Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker: 110 Recipes for Flavorful, Foolproof Dishes (Including Desserts!), Plus Test-Kitchen Tips and Strategies Stewart’s editors spent a year researching the best ways to cook everything from coq au vin to cinnamon buns. Clarkson Potter, $26. The Chef and the Slow Cooker Hugh Acheson, the restaurant chef-owner and Top Chef judge, defends the simple technology as a way to scratch cook with control and exciting results. Halibut poached in sherry-pimentón broth, anyone? Clarkson Potter, $29.99. Slow Cook Modern: 200 Recipes for the Way We Eat Today Known for healthy cooking and modern canning, author Liana Krissoff crafts slow-cooker dishes that are doable for daily meals. She had us at duck confit with white beans and leeks. Abrams, $24.99. The Complete Slow Cooker: From Appetizers to Desserts, 400 Must-Have Recipes that Cook While You Play (or Work) From America’s Test Kitchen, the PBS show, and Cook’s Illustrated chefs and editors, this compendium raises the bar with braised artichokes, huevos rancheros and Key lime pie. America’s Test Kitchen, $29.99. The slow cooker’s gentle heat means the seafood in Cheryl Jamison’s gumbo recipe doesn’t toughen or dry out. Gulf Gumbo Serves 8 • Vegetable oil spray • ¼ cup slow roux (recipe follows) • 4-ounce link andouille sausage, sliced thin • 2 each medium onion and green bell peppers, chopped • 3 medium celery stalks, chopped • 5 garlic cloves, minced • 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth • 2 bay leaves • ½ teaspoon each ground cayenne pepper, black pepper, ground dried thyme • ¾ pound each lump blue crab meat and peeled, raw medium shrimp, tails removed • 12 shucked oysters with their liquor • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt • 8 scallions, light green and white parts, sliced thin • 1 tablespoon filé powder • Cooked white rice Slow roux Stir together in the bottom of slow cooker ¼ cup each vegetable oil and flour. Cook on high heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or until roux is richly, deeply brown. Pour into a heatproof jar, cool and cover. Refrigerate if not using immediately; it will keep for several weeks. Generously spray the inside of the slow cooker with oil. Pour the roux into a medium skillet to warm; add andouille, onions, bell peppers, celery and garlic. Cook 8 to 10 minutes till tender, but don’t let the vegetables brown. Pour in clam juice and scrape up from bottom to loosen browned bits. Scrape mixture into slow cooker. Add chicken broth, bay leaves, cayenne, black pepper and thyme. Cover; cook for 3 to 3½ hours on high. Stir ni shrimp, crab, oysters, salt, scallions and filé powder. Cover and cook another 30 minutes or till shrimp and oysters are cooked through. Serve over hot rice.
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