Please note, this review originally appeared on our sister site, RealFoodTraveler.com. Cooking enthusiasts that you all are, I knew you’d want to learn about this great cookbook. — Edan Goode, editor, E.A.T. (Everyone Around the Table)
I love my crockpot, dearly. Yes, it forces me to deal with chopping, measuring and handling ingredients I don’t want to look at first thing in the morning. But it rewards me all day long, especially as mid-afternoon hangries attack and I think “What am I going to make for dinner?” “Remember, you have dinner cooking in the crockpot,” my memory reminds me. Yes! What a treat to know that my little crockpot has been slaving away for me and my family all day, or all afternoon, as the cooking time case may be. That’s why I had to have The Chef and the Slow Cooker cookbook by Hugh Acheson.
I first became aware of Acheson through his work as culinary partner of the Punch Bowl Social restaurants. His take on southern cooking is all over the menu, to rave reviews. Robert Thompson, owner of Punch Bowl Social, said Acheson’s book, A New Turn in the South, is his go-to when he’s cooking at home. That said a lot to me, so I was anxious to check out Acheson’s newest book on slow cookery. To provide some context, Acheson is a James Beard award-winning chef, restaurateur and Top Chef Judge. He is the chef owner of several restaurants in Georgia including 5&10 and Empire State South. He founded Seed Life Skills, “a living, multimedia curriculum built to serve the needs of the modern Family & Consumer Sciences (founded as Home Economics) classroom, emphasizing retainable real life skills with topics including hands-on culinary instruction, conscious consumer economics, and D.I.Y. design principles,” according to his website. What an accomplished and honorable guy!
The first thing I discovered in Acheson’s cookbook, The Chef and the Slow Cooker, is snark. Snark, wit, irreverance, humor, aaaaalll over the place. The book is a pleasure to look through, what with periodic photos of Acheson spending quality time with his crockpot such as while soaking in the tub (don’t try that at home), playing the cello, or reading in a lawn chair, in the yard with his crockpot on a loooong extension chord. Silliness, sure, but it’s all part of the vibe of the book that has a slightly retro air. I appreciated that, while beautiful, the photographs and staging aren’t too perfect which can make a cookbook feel like a coffee table book and somewhat intimidating. The photos for the stock recipes show the liquid in Mason jars with “Beef,” etc. handwritten on scotch tape labels. Yes! I would totally do that!
Sections from The Chef and the Slow Cooker include:
Foundations – stocks, broths and a theory on the long cook
Chicken, duck and other birds…plus eggs
Jams, butters, chutneys and one and a half desserts
The only bone I have to pick with this book is that a lot of the recipes take less than a whole day. So for those hoping to utilize the book to get something going before they leave for work in the morning, your selections are fewer. OR, just wait for the weekend, get everything in the crockpot mid-day, go off and have some fun, and dinner will be waiting for you. For me, a work-from-home type, the recipes were perfect, forcing me to take a mid-day break to prep things, but then allowing me to work a little later because my faithful crockpot was making me dinner like a good crockpot should!
I tried three recipes from the book and got rave reviews from my family. As you’ll see, these are real life photos from my real life cooking, not nearly as good looking as the pictures in the book. But they sure came out tasting fantastic!
Lentil Soup with Kale & Sour Cream was enhanced by shallots, carrot and celery, smoked paprika, and coriander seeds. It was brightened by lemon zest and sherry vinegar. After spending a little sauteeing time at the beginning, the meal cooked away for about three hours. I didn’t have sour cream but did dollop on some thick, plain yogurt.
Chicken Stew with Farro, Tomatoes, Olives & Feta, which cooked for four hours, was my favorite of the three (all of which we loved). I’d never really tried making farro, thinking it was going to take too long to cook. But when thrown in with other ingredients that are slow-cooking, it’s no big deal, with everything coming ready at the same time. The addition of olives, tomatoes and the tang of feta over the other hot ingredients made the meal a pleasure to eat.
Chicken Country Captain, was the most complex of the three slow cooker dishes I made. As Acheson points out, it is “a complex dish that travels the spice route of Southern history, featuring bright flavors that were introduced through the ports of Savannah and Charleston centuries ago.” Ingredients include poblano chile, ginger, curry, coconut milk and golden raisins. This was the one recipe I had to do a little shopping for. The others contained items I typically have in my pantry. They were all easy ingredients to get though, which meant I was stocked for making this dish again and again, which I have, since.
The Chef and the Slow Cooker, by Hugh Acheson is a great book for someone who leads a busy life but wants to make their own meals (healthy ones at that), using real and interesting ingredients. The recipes are doable, family-friendly, yet sophisticated. The book is enjoyable, approachable and means a much less stressful end-of-the-day, just when we need to be able to kick back, relax and settle into a good meal and a good evening ahead. It’s available at bookstores and on Amazon, through this link.
Please note, this site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Also, we received a copy of this cookbook to facilitiate our review. Rest assured, our opinions are our own and are true and honest reflections of our experience with this and other products.