The weather outside may be frightful to some of you, but with a little experimenting (and well, yeah, a little spending), you can spin any blizzard-to-be into a culinary adventure.
Me? I splurged on a slow cooker yesterday. Hard to believe, but I had a $100 gift card to Williams-Sonoma tucked into my wallet since Christmas 2008. So I finally put it to good use. As generous as it was, I still had to plunk down another $200-plus for my purchases: the prized All-Clad Deluxe 7 Quart Slow Cooker, an $18 jar of cacciatore starter sauce, a had-to-have jar of caramelized shallots, and the requisite cookbook. Instead of the big, bold, glossy Williams-Sonoma book displayed next to the slow-cooking gear, I sought out Art of the Slow Cooker: 80 Exciting New Recipes by local foodie/author Andrew Schloss, a revered Main Line Today culinary resource.
The recipes are mouthwatering, and the photos will entice even you into making something that’s probably more complicated than you might want to prepare as a novice—if, of course, that is what you are. (If you’re a pro, please send your recipes and tips my way!) I’m a novice myself, but I figure I can’t go wrong attempting a stew, right? (See the bistro stew recipe on page 64.) Though, the soups are so tempting, too: corn chowder with jalapeño, curried coconut chicken … I’m salivating at just the thought!
The recipes in here are not as facile as they are in other slow cooker cookbooks, which is a good and bad thing—kind of like, garbage in, garbage out. However, if you’re efficient with your chef’s knife, peeler, colander and any other tool you might need to prep ingredients for a lengthy stint in the cooker, you’ll be rewarded with some pretty fine-tasting creations—that is, of course, if you believe the reviews on Amazon.com. If I didn’t know Schloss personally and hadn’t tasted his food before (he has a fantastic “for dummies” grilling book), I might not be so bold as to tout recipes that I haven’t yet made. But I have full confidence.
Another thing you can do with a slow cooker is bake. Who knew? Schloss has recipes for slow-cooked brandy cheesecake, ricotta vanilla bread pudding, a chocolate pudding cake, plus slow “baked” pears and apples. Need I say more? Oh yes, and the chocolate-covered coconut torte!
There’s more: Even though the Super Bowl is behind us and the next “crowd” event likely isn’t for a while, whip up some hot toddies (page 210). Depending on how many snow days the kids get, I might just make them the mini White Castle burgers in my freezer and keep myself sane over some hot buttered rum or modern-day mead!
Take it from me: Buck up, and spend the money. This week/weekend is the perfect time to slow down and cook.