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. 

Go-To Meals, Part 1 By Edan Goode

When I’m able to be really organized, I plan a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, shopping for ingredients, defrosting in stages, etc. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m very proud of having my act so together. That scenario doesn’t happen very often.

At best, I scan the fridge, freezer and kitchen cabinets in the morning and come up with a plan for that night. Even then, I still feel pretty good about myself for knowing what I’m going to make that night.

Now, the reality is more like this: no Sunday planning, no time for a quick plan in the morning and suddenly it’s 4:00 and the kids walk in the door asking what’s for dinner. “Um, I haven’t decided yet” is my usual response. I hate that. It takes an already busy, stressful day and tops it off with even more stress. I scramble to come up with something (often the scrambling of eggs ends up being involved, ironically) but it’s haphazard and a tense situation.

What I need to do is come up with a list of Go-To meals (as opposed to To-Go meals!) that I can keep the ingredients on hand for and assemble quickly when need be. In the next few blogs, I’m going to share with you what I’m coming up with in hopes that some of the recipes might help you too. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. I invite you, dear readers, to share your recipes with me as well. I’d love to share them in this blog space so we can help each other out.

Here’s my first recipe, a beef ragu sauce that can be made in the crockpot (which, yes, requires planning from the morning but then it

Beef Stew Ragu doing the hard work for me, in the crock pot. Steamy goodness!

Beef Stew Ragu doing the hard work for me, in the crock pot. Steamy goodness!

comes together quickly at dinnertime) or it can be made using a pressure cooker in about 20 minutes. Please share your recipes in the Leave A Reply area below. Thanks!

Edan’s Go-To Beef Ragu Sauce                           


Note: This can be served over pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes

1 large carrot, diced finely

1 medium onion, chopped finely

Go-To Beef Ragu

Go-To Beef Ragu

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 can tomato paste

2 14.5-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 tsp. each thyme, oregano and basil

Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

2 pounds beef stew meat cut into bite-size pieces

Pasta, polenta or mashed potatoes for the sauce

Grated parmesan for serving

In a crockpot:

Combine all ingredients except pasta/polenta/potatoes and parmesan in a slow cooker. Cover and put on low for 6 hours or on high for 4. Check the liquid levels periodically to make sure it isn’t reducing too much. If it is, add ¼ cup water at a time. But no more than that you don’t want to make the sauce too runny.

The sauce is done when the meat and carrots are fork tender. Ladle over whatever base you choose and sprinkle with parmesan.

In a pressure cooker: 

Brown the meat and onion, adding the minced garlic after the meat has started to brown. Add enough water to just cover the meat mixture. Put the lid on and cook over medium high heat until the pressure has clearly started to build up (how and when this happens depends on your pressure cooker). Lower the heat to medium and simmer, with lid on, for 15 minutes. Follow the directions for how to release the steam and open the lid. Drain off most of the liquid.

Put the pressure cooker back on the stove and add the tomato sauce, paste and seasonings. On medium heat, simmer until the sauce is heated through. Meanwhile, prepare your base and prepare as above.

Share your Go-To recipe under the Leave A Reply section below.

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