Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Versatility of the Slow Cooker

photo credit
Did you know that you can use your slow cooker for more than beef stew and chicken stock? True story. I wouldn't lie to you.

Don't get me wrong, stew is awesome. And warming. And versatile. And, although you will find some delicious stews in the 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, you will also find that this new edition reflects the changes in our cooking and dining habits: more worldly and more figure-friendly.

The book also shows you how to use the slow cooker in unison with other kitchen tools, most especially- the delicious effects of browning your meats and veggies in a skillet before slow cooking them to perfection. These little details turn a good dish into a great one.

So grab your slow cooker and expand your repertoire this year. Recipes include: Sizzling Shrimp and Dill Pickle Dip, Caribbean Pepper Pot Soup, Poached Eggs on Spicy Lentils, Pork Roast with Chile-Orange Sauce, French-Country Chicken with Olives, Portuguese Sausage and Shellfish Stew, Braised Halibut on a Bed of Creamy Leeks, Greek Bean Sauce with Feta, Steamed Brown Bread, New Potato Curry, Orange-Spiked Carrots Braised in Vermouth, Lemon Cheesecake, and Indian Banana Pudding.

Try out these recipes for Mushroom and Artichoke Lasagna, Short Ribs with Orange Gremolata, or Delectable Apple-Cranberry Coconut Crisp! (below)

The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes
Second Edition
Revised and Expanded for Today's Kitchen

Judith Finlayson

Softcover, 288 pages

Chapters include:
Appetizers and Fondues
Beans, Lentils and Chilies
Beef and Veal
Pork and Lamb
Fish, Seafood and Vegetarian Favorites
Grains and Sides

Mushroom and Artichoke Lasagna
Serves 6 to 8

I love the unusual combination of flavors in this lasagna, which reminds me of a Proven├žal gratin. In addition to adding flavor and color, the baby spinach is a great time saver as it doesn’t require pre-cooking.
  • Large (minimum 5 quart) oval slow cooker, greased
2 tbsp    butter    30 mL
1    onion, finely chopped    1
1 lb    mushrooms, trimmed and sliced    500 g
4    cloves garlic, minced    4
31⁄2 cups    quartered artichoke hearts, packed in water,    875 mL
    drained, or thawed if frozen
3⁄4 cup    dry white wine or vegetable broth    175 mL
12    oven-ready lasagna noodles    12
21⁄2 cups     ricotta cheese    625 mL
2 cups    baby spinach    500 mL
21⁄2 cups    shredded mozzarella cheese    625 mL
1⁄2 cup    freshly grated Parmesan cheese    125 mL
    Extra virgin olive oil, optional (see Tips, left)

1.    In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, until mushrooms begin to release their liquid. Stir in artichokes and wine and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until liquid reduces slightly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
2.    Cover bottom of slow cooker stoneware with 4 noodles, breaking to fit where necessary. Spread with half of the ricotta, half of the mushroom mixture, half of the spinach, one-third each of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat. Arrange final layer of noodles over cheeses. Pour any liquid remaining from mushroom mixture over noodles (see Tip, left). If top still seems dry, sprinkle with a little vegetable broth or water. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until hot and bubbly.

v Vegetarian Friendly (pg 214)
v Entertaining Worthy

Unlike many recipes for lasagna, this one is not terribly saucy. As a result, the noodles on the top layer tend to dry out. Leave a small amount of the cooking liquid from the mushroom mixture behind in the pan, after adding to the slow cooker. Pour that over the top layer of noodles, particularly around the edges, where they are most likely to dry out. If it still seems dry, drizzle with a little olive oil.

Make Ahead
This dish can be assembled the night before it is cooked. Refrigerate overnight in slow cooker stoneware and cook as directed.

Excerpted from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson
Photographs by Colin Erricson © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Short Ribs with Orange Gremolata
Serves 4 to 6

These delicious Italian-inspired ribs are classy enough for the most discriminating guest yet homey enough for a family dinner. Serve with creamy polenta and steamed broccoli spears or rapini for a scrumptious Italian-themed meal.
  • Large (minimum 5 quart) slow cooker
  • Preheat broiler
4 to 5 lbs    beef short ribs (see Tip, left)    2 to 2.5 kg
1 tbsp    oil    15 mL
2    onions, finely chopped    2
2    large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced    2
4    stalks celery, thinly sliced    4
4    cloves garlic, minced    4
1 tsp    salt    5 mL
1 tsp    cracked black peppercorns    5 mL
2    whole sprigs fresh thyme or 1⁄2 tsp (2 mL)     2
    dried thyme
2 tbsp    all-purpose flour    30 mL
1 tbsp    tomato paste    15 mL
1⁄2 cup    dry red wine    125 mL
1⁄2 cup    beef broth    125 mL

Orange Gremolata
1⁄2 cup    Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped    125 mL
1    clove garlic, minced    1
    Zest of 1 orange, finely chopped

1.    Position broiler rack 6 inches (15 cm) from heat source. Broil ribs on both sides, turning once, until well browned, about 10 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Separate ribs if in strips and place in slow cooker stoneware.
2.    In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, salt, peppercorns and thyme and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over mixture and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and wine, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Stir in broth.
3.    Pour sauce over ribs and stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until ribs are tender and falling off the bone.
4.    Orange Gremolata: Combine parsley, garlic and orange zest in a small bowl just before serving and pass at the table.

v Entertaining Worthy (pg 112)
v Can Be Halved
    (see Tips, page 108)

I love short ribs but they are very fatty. Browning them under the broiler before cooking renders much of the fat.

Make Ahead
This dish can be partially prepared before it is cooked.
Complete Step 2. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to cook, brown the ribs (Step 1) and continue with the recipe.

Excerpted from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson
Photographs by Colin Erricson © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Delectable Apple-Cranberry Coconut Crisp
Serves 6 to 8

I love to make this delicious dessert in the fall when apples and cranberries are in season. This version is a little tart, which suits my taste, but if you have a sweet tooth, add more sugar to the cranberry mixture.
  • Medium (approx. 31⁄2 quart) slow cooker, lightly greased
4 cups    sliced, peeled apples    1 L
2 cups    cranberries, thawed if frozen    500 mL
1⁄2 cup    granulated sugar    125 mL
1 tbsp    cornstarch    15 mL
1⁄2 tsp    ground cinnamon    2 mL
2 tbsp    freshly squeezed lemon juice or port wine    30 mL
Coconut Topping
1⁄2 cup    packed brown sugar    125 mL
1⁄2 cup    rolled oats    125 mL
1⁄4 cup    flaked sweetened coconut    60 mL
1⁄4 cup    butter    60 mL

1.    In a bowl, combine apples, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and lemon juice or port. Mix well and transfer to prepared stoneware.
2.    Coconut Topping: In a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, rolled oats, coconut and butter. Using two forks or your fingers, combine until crumbly. Spread over apple mixture.
3.    Place a clean tea towel, folded in half (so you will have two layers), over top of stoneware. Cover and cook on High for 3 to 4 hours, until crisp is hot and bubbly. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Apple-Coconut Crisp: Use 6 cups (1.5 L) sliced apples, omit cranberries, reduce sugar to 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) and use lemon juice rather than port wine.

v Vegetarian Friendly
v Entertaining Worthy
v Can Be Halved
    (see Tip, below)

If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (approx. 11⁄2 to 3 quart) slow cooker.

Excerpted from The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson
Photographs by Colin Erricson © 2011 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.