Review: The Chef and the Slow Cooker

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.

The book, "The Chef and the Slow Cooker."

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

Porcine Dreams

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.

 

Lentil Soup with Kale from The Chef and the Slow Cooker.

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 Stew with Farro, Tomatoes, Olives & Feta

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.

 

Chicken Country Captain from The Chef and the Slow Cooker.

 

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. 

Advertisements

Roasted Chili Breakfast Tacos

When I was a newlywed, my husband and I grew a garden in the backyard of our first house. Cherry tomatoes and anaheim peppers grew better than anything else. One hot, late summer day, we picked some peppers and tomatoes and took them in the house to try to do something with them for lunch. The tomatoes were still warm from the sun but we sliced an onion and our peppers and sauteed them both in a skillet with olive oil. We put the peppers, onions and tomatoes in a tortilla, wrapped them up and gobbled them up! It was so delicious and so easy. Best of all, we were eating food we had picked only 15 minutes before. It made us feel very good about our new gardening skills.

Now many years later, in a new house with no gardening space, it is our annual, late summer ritual to buy bags of roasted chilies from farmstands and farmers markets. Oh, that smell means “autumn” to me! We divvy up the chilies into smaller bags and freeze them so we can have that wonderful harvest flavor throughout the year, like in our Make-Ahead Pork Green Chili Burritos. But we always keep one bag out for breakfast the next day. In a slight variation on that wonderful first-garden-lunch, we often make this delicious breakfast. Just look at this monster taco-for-two we made this past weekend!
Roasted Chilies Breakfast Taco

Roasted Chili Breakfast Tacos
Serves 2

Ingredients:
4 roasted chilies with the stem and cap cut off.
3 large eggs
1/2 an onion (white, red, or yellow – your choice)
1 diced tomato or a hand ful of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 tortillas
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
1. Dice or slice the onion.
2. Dice or slice the peppers.
3. Heat some olive oil in a skillet.
4. Saute the onion until it is translucent.
5. Add the chiles to heat them through (they are already cooked).
6. Add the tomatoes to heat them through – you want to retain that freshly-picked texture.
7. Break the eggs into a small bowl or small plastic cup and whisk with a fork until they are well-blended. This will make for fluffier eggs.
8. Scramble the eggs and add salt and pepper to taste.
9. If you want, lay the tortillas over the skillet as the eggs are cooking (one at a time) to soften and warm them. Or heat them briefly in another skillet for a little char.
10. Place the tortillas on a plate and fill with the egg, tomato, onion and chili mixture.
11. Fold over and enjoy!

Or, try this – prompted by some of the ingredients falling out while we ate, we also thought that you could pour the egg OVER the cooked veggies, allowing the eggs to set, almost like a frittata. That way, you’d avoid any veggies falling out. Experiment! See how you like it best.

This is a delicious way to enjoy the bounty of chilies, whether they came from your garden or off the farm.

Bacon Tomato Tart – A Guest Blog

Lynne Cobb - tomatoes and basil - bacon tomato tarte - meTo me, the best parts of a BLT sandwich are the bacon, tomato and bread. Sorry, lettuce, you just don’t thrill me. So when a fellow blogger, Lynne Cobb, shared her recipe for “My Super-Awesome Bacon Tart,” which combines those three perfect ingredients, I asked her if I could share the recipe with my E.A.T. readers. 

Lynne took advantage of the best of her garden’s tomatoes, basil and oregano when developing this recipe. If it’s too early in the season for a great harvest, try to find the best tomatoes and herbs you can from the market to make this recipe really shine. 

Lynne’s recipe calls for easy-to-find ingredients: 

(Preheat oven to 350 degrees.)

1 unbaked pie crust shell (homemade or purchased)

12 oz of bacon – cooked until crisp. (Reserve a few tablespoons of bacon drippings).

1/2 cup of chopped onion – saute in bacon drippings

6-8 oz of soft mozzarella, shredded or cubed

1 large tomato, sliced thin (Note, I didn’t have large, beautiful tomatoes from the garden so I used cherry tomatoes which worked fine)

A few leaves of basil, cut into thin strips

Crumble the bacon into pie shell. Layer it with the onions and mozzarella; add tomato and basil.

Mix together:

1 cup of milk, 4 eggs, salt, pepper and a few teaspoons of freshly chopped oregano. Pour over ingredients in pie shell.

Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then slice and enjoy. 

 

Tomato Bacon Tart - Mine - Lynne Cobb

 

 

Thank you Lynne, for sharing your recipe! My family loved it. It was the perfect meal with a nice salad on the side. The leftovers were great for breakfast too! 

 

 

Big Batch Bolognese

My first taste of meat sauce for pasta came as a child when my Mom would use a name-brand seasoning packet which shall go nameless here. It was delicious but full of processed stuff. When I had a family of my own, I tried to recreate those flavors without all that processed stuff and came pretty darned close. Then, a while back, I was invited to dinner at a fancy restaurant in town where they made a fantastic bolognese sauce with pork, Italian sausage, beef and a touch of red wine. It was divine! So, I set about figuring out how to make THAT at home as well, feeling like I was graduating a bit from that first attempt at sauce.

I think I’ve done it and wanted to share the recipe with you. I’ve made this recipe numerous times now and it always draws raves. I love putting half the sauce in the freezer, knowing that on a busy night, I’ve got another great meal ready.

Big Batch Bolognese - finished

This makes a big batch of bolognese sauce! Our family of six can get two full meals out of it. It freezes beautifully (I think it actually benefits from some time chilling out) so depending on the size of your family, portion it off in freezer bags for easy defrosting and reheating. Also, note that this is not a saucy sauce that’s going to run over your plate. It’s thick and meant to cling to your pasta. I recommend spaghetti, fettuccine or wide papperadelle noodles or campanelle which is small but ruffly and catches bits of sauce beautifully.

Big Batch Bolognese
Serves up to 12

Ingredients:

1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp. sugar
2 15-oz cans tomato sauce plus about 1/2 a can of water
1 6oz can tomato paste
1 pound ground beef – 80/20 or 90/10 lean/fat are fine
1lb bulk, hot Italian sausage
1 lb ground pork
Fresh or dried basil, oregano, rosemary – see below
1/4 cup red wine that you’d drink with the meal
Salt to taste
Pasta of your choice
Parmesan cheese to taste

 

Big Batch Bolognese - meat

Save time by cooking the meats, onions and garlic all together.

Instructions:

1. In a large pot, drizzle a little olive oil and heat until just before it starts to smoke.
2. Add the onion, garlic and meats, breaking them up and mixing all ingredients as they brown. Keep cooking until the fat diminishes. You want to have some left for flavor but you don’t want it to be swimming in it.
3. Carefully add the cans of tomato sauce and the tomato paste plus the 1/2 can of water. Keep the cans nearby in case you have to add a little more water as things thicken. This is a good way to also get every last bit of sauce out of the cans and prepare them for the recycling bin.
4. Stir everything together, breaking up the tomato paste.
5. At this point, add about 1/4 tsp. of each of the herbs. If you are using dried herbs, crumble them between your fingers and mix.  
6. Add the sugar and mix. This is an old trick to tang some of the acidity off of the tomato sauce and to give it a more well-rounded flavor. Add too much and you’ll ruin the sauce so be conservative. You can always add more. 
7. While the sauce is cooking over medium heat, get another big pot of salted water boiling and make the pasta. The sauce can be left waiting but the pasta can’t. 
8. Cook the sauce until it has thickened a bit, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t scorch on the bottom of the pan. 
9. A few minutes before serving, add another 1/4 tsp. of each of the herbs. I do this because I like the layering of herb flavors that have cooked with the dish and the ones that are more pronounced on their own. 
10. Sprinkle in some parmesan cheese and leave it out to serve with the finished meal.
11. Add the wine and stir. 
12. Drain your pasta and serve the sauce over it or mix the two together before serving if you’re going to eat it all. Don’t freeze pasta and sauce together – it doesn’t reheat well. 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Going Free-Form with a Fruit Galette

I don’t do double crust pies well. I just can’t get them to look nice around the edges, despite trying all the tricks. Then I thought of doing a Galette, a more free-form pie that has a “rustic” look. (I love the word “rustic” because it’s my excuse to be really imperfect and still sound like it was on purpose!) Pies, galettes and cobblers are a great way to use up fruit that has seen better days. When I made this galette, I had some rhubarb, blueberries and peaches. But you can use any fruit that you think would go well together including frozen fruit that has been defrosted and drained of extra liquid.

Ingredients:

Galette

Mix all of the ingredients of your filling together in a large bowl.

1 thawed pie crust

2 cups worth of diced fruit of choice

1 TBS Brown sugar (can add more)

1 TBS corn starch

Pinch of salt

1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk

1 TBS sanding or turbinado sugar

Directions:

Heat oven to temperature recommended on pie crust packaging.

Lay out the pie crust on a non-stick (like Silpat) liner on a baking sheet.

Mix the fruit, sugar, corn starch and salt together in a large bowl.

Spoon fruit mixture in the center, leaving about an inch and a half all around the edge.

Fold in sections of the outer edge of the crust you just left exposed, turning the galette as you go. There will be a large section of fruit filling showing.

Brush the crust you have now folded up with the egg wash.

Sprinkle the crust with the sanding or turbinado sugar. This isn’t just to sweeten it a bit, it’s to leave a crystalline effect that is very pretty.

Bake according to instructions.

Allow to cool 15 minutes or more. Cut into wedges, like a pie, to serve. It would be good served a la mode or with a dollop of whipped cream.

Galette

Leave a generous edge all around to fold in.

I’d love to show you a picture of the finished product, fresh out of the oven. It was lovely and golden brown. However we had company over and they all descended and topped their slices with vanilla ice cream before I could get a shot. I guess I’ll consider that a compliment!

galette-with-sugar-sprinkle

Pretty, huh? You should have seen it baked! Without letting it cool a bit, and while my back was turned, the family descended. The aftermath was a plate of crumbs and some happy tummies. 

4-Ingredient Mexican-Style Corn

A couple of years ago, I visited Santa Fe and had corn on the cob prepared in the Mexican tradition, coated with mayonnaise, seasonings and cheese. It was delicious but really messy to eat (or maybe it was just me). Luckily, it’s easier to make (and less messy to eat) with corn that’s already off the cob. Here’s my variation which is super-fast and easy to make. It’s a great side-dish that goes with any protein and is also delicious mixed into a salad. 

Here’s all you need to make this corn: 1. Frozen corn off the cob 2. Chili powder 3. Mayonnaise 4. Lime zest. That’s it! Adjust the amounts to your taste. 

mexican-corn-with-chili-prep

Prepare frozen corn according to instructions, being sure to drain off all liquid. Sprinkle on some chili powder, starting with 1 teaspoon at a time. You can always add more of all ingredients by tasting it at the end. Stir the corn and chili to mix it well.

 

mexican-corn-done-in-bowl

Add a rounded tablespoon of your favorite mayonnaise and stir. Again, you can always add more but the idea is just to add a creamy coating to the corn without making it gloppy. Add a pinch of lime zest for color and brightness of flavor. 

When I get some great limes, I wash them thoroughly and zest them all. I freeze the zest in a zipper bag to use throughout the year – works great! I prefer lime zest over lemon here both for the flavor and the pop of color.
mexican-corn-done-in-bowl

Mix everything together and serve immediately. As it sits, moisture from inside the corn starts to mix with the mayonnaise and things start to get watery. You don’t want that! 

Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup

A grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup in which to dip that sandwich is a classic combination. I love this combo but, one day, while trying to make something different for Sunday breakfast, I came up with this dish, a deconstructed recipe that combines tomatoes, toasted bread and melted cheese with the addition of an over-easy egg! It was delicious. The yolk combines with the tomatoes, cheese and bread into something creamy and full of flavor.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-3

A hearty, healthy breakfast I call a Deconstructed Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (with Egg).

Ingredients:
Per person –
1/2 tomato, chopped or cherry tomatoes cut in half
1 slice bread of choice (I used a sprouted grain bread)
1 slice cheese of choice (I used sharp cheddar)
1 egg

Method: 
1. In a toaster oven or regular toaster, lightly toast bread of choice.
2. In a skillet, melt butter and then place lightly-toasted bread in the pan and top with cheese. You will not be turning this over in the skillet, obviously, because of the cheese. Place a cover over the skillet to help the cheese melt. When done, put it on a plate to make room for the tomato and egg. Don’t cover the toast to keep it warm because it will steam and the toast will soften. The heat from the tomato and egg will create the overall heat for the meal.
3.  Drizzle a little olive oil in a skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
4. Saute the tomatoes on one side of the pan, turning frequently. On the other side, crack an egg. Cover and let the egg cook for sunnyside up, or turn over for over-easy. Just make sure the yolk remains runny.
5. To serve, place the egg on top of the toast and then the tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-2

You could make this cheese toast in a skillet with butter for a more traditional flavor, or you can do it in a toaster oven without butter.

deconstructed-grilled-cheese-tomato-soup-breakfast-stage-1

Saute tomato in the same skillet as the egg you are frying.