Cookbook 148: Essentials of Slow Cooking

I bought Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking some when, clearly when I was thinking about slow cooking, and now, finally, I have cooked from this book. And it’s a real shame that I waited this long, because the book is amazing. I like that it provides both stove and slow cooker options for every recipe (apart from the sides). I like that the book is in metric as well as imperial (which I won’t include because it’s time to get with the program), and I liked the recipes that I made from it.

The mushroom ragu that was made was too mushroomy for the vegetarian of the house-hold, and the spicy squash recipe has WAY too much sugar in it, however both of these things are easy to fix and the meat dishes I made were amazing. I’m going to give this 4 out of 5 and work on fixing the recipes next time.

Mushroom Ragu (serves 4 – 6)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2.5kg assorted fresh mushrooms, brushed clean, stems removed, large caps halved
  • 1/2 cup Marsala, Port or sherry
  • 1 cup, chicken stock (or vegetable)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, until all but 1 tablespoon of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the Marsala, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. You should have about 3 cups of mushrooms and liquid.
  2. STOVE TOP: Transfer the mushrooms to a Dutch oven (or large, heavy based saucepan) and bring to a simmer over low heat. Partially cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is dark and concentrated, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring often until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon 7 – 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.
  3. SLOW COOKER: Transfer the mushroom mixture to a slow cooker and set this temperature to low. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the liquid is dark and concentrated, about 45 minutes. Stir in the cream, raise the heat to high, and cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 15 – 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I laughed and laughed and laughed when I saw that this recipe was asking for 2.5kg of mushrooms. That is SO many mushrooms. Way more mushrooms than a “large frying pan” would be able to manage.
  • I halved this recipe to make the mushroom level more manageable. Making this in autumn when mushrooms are in season would also reduce the cost of this dish.
  • If you don’t have a Dutch oven (and look, that’s fair because they’re expensive), use a big saucepan and don’t transfer the mushrooms to another pot if you’re continuing with the stove method. That’s what I did and it worked.
  • Taste wise – some mushrooms are stronger than others, and to avoid this being so overpoweringly mushroom, you can use milder mushrooms. I am not a mushroom person, you can probably find out which ones are more or less mild by asking the internet.

Spicy Squash with Garlic-Yoghurt Sauce (makes 6 – 8 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1.25kg Japanses/Kent pumpkin, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 4cm pieces
  • 2.5cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup 1tbsp sugar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Garlic-Yoghurt sauce

  • 1.5 cups plain whole-milk yoghurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp, chopped fresh mint
  • salt

Method:

  1. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil. Working in batches if necessary, add the pumpkin and saute until evenly browned, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the ginger, coriander, cinnamon and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, the sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring to a boil.
  2. STOVE TOP: Transfer the tomato-sauce mixture to a large Dutch oven (or heavy-based saucepan). Add the pumpkin and stir to combine with the sauce. Partially cover and simmer gently over a low heat until the squash is very tender and the sauce is thick, 30 – 45 minutes.
  3. SLOW COOKER: Transfer the tomato-sauce mixture to a slow cooker. Add the pumpkin and stir to combine with the sauce. Cover and cook until the pumpkin is very tender and the sauce is thick, 2 hours on the high-heat setting or 4 hours on the low-heat setting.
  4. Meanwhile, make the garlic yoghurt sauce: Line a fine-mesh sieve with a double layer of cheese cloth (muslin), place in a bowl, and spoon the yoghurt into the sieve. Refrigerate until the excess liquid has drained from the yoghurt, 20-30 minutes. Transfer the yoghurt to a bowl. Stir in the garlic, 3 tbsp of mint, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
  5. To serve, spread about two thirds of the garlic-yoghurt sauce on a serving platter. Mound the pumpkin mixture on the sauce and top with the remaining sauce. Garnish with mint and serve immediately.

Notes on this recipe:

  • Half a cup of sugar? What on earth were the recipe writers thinking? For the recipe I halved that to a quarter, and that was still WAY too sweet. Pumpkins/squashes are already sweet, and that much sugar would make this candied. I’m suggesting a tablespoon of sugar, but you could probably skip it entirely.
  • This recipe was really nice. The thick tomato sauce with the spices worked really well with the garlic yoghurt sauce. Next time we’re going to make this (in a couple of weeks), I’ll be cutting the sugar substantially.

Chicken paprika (serves 4 – 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 chicken cut into 8 serving pieces (1.5 – 2kgs) or the equivalent in chicken pieces, trimmed of excess skin and fat
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 green capsicum, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp sweet paprika
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Method:

  1. Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a frying pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter with the canola oil. Working in batches, if necessary, add the chicken and cook, turning frequently, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat in the pan. Add the onions and capsicum and saute over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth, paprika, and tomatoes and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up all the browned bit on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
  3. STOVE TOP: Transfer the chicken to a Dutch oven (or heavy based saucepan) and add the tomato mixture. Cover and cook over a medium heat until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout, about 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover loosely with aluminium foil to keep warm. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil over high heat and cook, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the sour cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve
  4. SLOW COOKER: Transfer the chicken to a slow cooker and add the tomato mixture. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout, 6 hours on the low-heat setting. Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover loosely with aluminium foil to keep warm. Set the temperature to high, bring the cooking liquid to a boil, and cook, uncovered, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Turn off the cooker, stir in the sour cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

Notes on this recipe

  • This was really delicious as were the left overs for lunch.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever used this much paprika in a dish before
  • I don’t know how traditional it is to use green capsicum versus red, but I’d be interested in trying it with red capsicum sometime.
  • I also want to make nokedli (Hungarian dumplings/pasta) to serve it with sometime too

Osso Bucco (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 4 veal shanks (or beef if you can’t get veal) – 1.25 – 1.5kg total weight
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 6mm dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio
  • 1 carrot, cut into 6mm dice
  • 1 rib celery, cut into 6mm dice
  • 1 tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp minced fresh oregano
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves

For the gremolata

  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • grated zest of 1 orange

Method:

  1. Season the shanks all over with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shanks and cook until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute over medium-high heat until they start to turn tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the wine and deglaze the plan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Stir in the carrot, celery, tomatoes, broth, oregano and thyme, and bring to a boil.
  3. OVEN: Preheat the oven to 190C. Transfer the shanks to a large Dutch oven (or casserole dish). Pour in the vegetable mixture. Cover and cook until the shanks are very tender, about 2 hours.
  4. SLOW COOKER: Transfer the shanks to a slow cooker and pour in the vegetable mixture. Cover and cook until the shanks are very tender, 3 hours on the high-heat setting or 6 hours on the low-heat setting.
  5. Shortly before the shanks are done, make the gemolata: In a small bowl, stir together the parsley, garlic, and lemon and orange zests.
  6. Divide the shanks among warmed plates. Spoon the vegetables and cooking juices over the shank, garnish with the gremolata, and serve at once.

Notes on this recipe:

  • I forgot the gremolata for mine – whoops.
  • OMG this dish was so good, a perfect antidote to the disastrous lamb shanks from the AWW cookbook the other week.
  • We served this with rice, but I think that mashed potato or pasta would be a far superior side than rice.
  • I want to make this again, because it is one of the best comforting dishes I know when I want beefs and warm food.

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