"slowcooking" news and stories
I love this little cookbook called Crockery Cookery (there's something very pleasant about saying that out loud), written by Mable Hoffman. It was first published in 1975, when the slow cooking trend first started to sweep the nation. It contains recipes, tips, tricks and a guide to all slow cookers that were available in 1975 (not particularly helpful these days, but an interesting blast from the past).
My copy has a receipt in it from a Salvation Army Thrift Shop from 1983, marking the recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini. It uses canned mushrooms, but other than that calls for fresh veggies and good ingredients, showing me that not all recipes from the seventies are a wasteland of processed ingredients and horrible chemicals.
The meat was sealed, added to the soften onions and garlic, a teaspoon of paprika and plenty of beef stock. Then a low heat as the whole simmered. I am not sure the potatoes benefited from par-boiling before being added to the dish but that is what I did. Around 30 minutes before the end of the three hours the potatoes were added to the stew and left to cook just as slowly but without a lid to the dish.
With a real spicy kick the chorizo bled colour into the stew, the flavours mingling with the paprika and other ingredients. A hearty dusting of chopped parsley added a freshness to the whole but the spice edge from the chorizo took a heavy hammer to the complexities of the accompanying wine; which was a shame, but the succulent steak component shone in a near perfect match. Three hours simmering and less than forty minutes to eat; at least the house hummed with delicious aromas and the guests went home sedated and mellow.
I'm a firm believer in the beauty of the braise. Not familiar? A braise is any time you first brown your ingredients in hot oil (or, sauté), and then add liquid to finish the cooking. You can finish your braise on the stovetop, in the oven, or in a slow cooker - but most braises are finished in the same place they were started. And braises are often the definition of s.l.o.w. slow.
Many slow cooker recipes call for a good browning of the meats and/or veggies first, but most of them hasten to mention that the browning could be skipped. I think this is close to vital (and Sarah Gim mentions that it does, after all, speed up the cooking process). What's your take: to brown, or not to brown.
[Photo Sarah Gilbert]
We've been talking about slow cooking today with everything from steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast to an authentic kalua pig roasted in the ground to Catalan beef stew. When you've got the time (and the space, if you're doing the whole kalua pig!), slow cooking is awesome.
During the work week though, and even on weekends when time is taken up with "life errands" like picking up dry cleaning, slow-cooking isn't always realistic. At least, not the kind of slow-cooking that truly takes four to five hours. Besides, I don't have a slow-cooking crock pot and my tiny apartment kitchen couldn't hold another small appliance.
But not to despair! There are way to *ahem* cheat the slow cooking a little. It probably won't be as fast and perky as Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee, but a few tips can still get you a beautifully braised, buttery beefy stew without having to sic your can opener on Dinty Moore. These aren't novel new ideas in cooking, just reminders.
Who doesn't love baked beans? I always have a couple of cans in my cupboard, ready to mix with weiners for a retro protein-packed snack. When I planned for slow cooking day, baked beans was my first thought. Nothing is more quintessentially American or (let's be honest here) easier.
I've tried to make baked beans before, and gotten frustrated with the long cooking time. Not this weekend. I started composing my soul of slow cooking post and got into a zen cooking space. I looked up at least five recipes, and they were all almost exactly the same - all started with two cups of navy beans (or, variously, "Great Northern" or "Michigan Navy" beans, which are almost the same thing), 5-6 cups of water, onion, bacon or salt pork, molasses, ginger, mustard and salt.
There were variations, of course; a little Worchestershire Sauce here, a little ketchup there. I ended up using the recipe for Boston Baked Beans from The Gourmet Slow Cooker, by Lynn Alley. It turned out fabulously, and I have only one piece of advice: cook it for a really, really long time! I cooked mine in an oven, for at least eight hours. It was delicious and so flavorful.