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Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever? Maybe.

For my birthday this year, I received, among other things, a cookbook from my daughter. A slow cooker cookbook to be exact.

Now, I had requested the new Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated from my husband. However, he’s a guy and doesn’t remember details like that and gets to the store and asks himself, “Now, which book did she ask for?” And finally gives up and just picks one.

slow cooker cookbook The one I received was Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever by Diane Phillips. And I have to admit that after being a little wary and disappointed by not getting the specific one I had requested, I have actually been pretty impressed.

The is not a “throw in a can of this and a can of that” kind of a slow cooker recipe book. These recipes are the real deal. The author seems to have a very good understanding and does a very good job of layering flavors to give the finished project deep and complex flavors after hours in a slow cooker.

So far I have tried three recipes out of this cookbook. I usually withhold all judgments until I have tried at least that many. This one has passed the test.

A couple of things I will say about it. A) You cannot be afraid of bacon. Out of the three recipes I tested, all three included bacon. 2) You cannot be afraid to cook with alcohol. Otherwise be ready to look for substitute ingredients. Two of the three recipes I tried called for either wine or beer. And 3) You need a good place from which to purchase “soppin’ bread” because these are some good sauces.

And I have to admit, using my slow cooker has been nice. I am able to cook a meal mostly while I am at work and most of these recipes make enough for plenty of leftovers for one of our busier nights when my husband can just heat something up and not have to cook.

The first recipe I tried was called Bistro Chicken Thighs and is made up of chicken thighs in a tomato and wine sauce. It was so good that this is the only picture I could come up with.


One of the other recipes that I just tried this week is Hungarian Smoked Beef Braise. It’s like a gorgeous cross between a hearty beef stew and a pot roast with root vegetables.


Since we are headed into the fall and winter months, and my daughter said of this recipe, “The would be great on a cold winter evening,” I’m going to share this recipe with you.

Hungarian Smoked Beef Braise

Serves 8


6 medium Yukon gold or red potatoes, quartered
4 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into ½ - inch pieces
3 medium onions, cut into half rounds*
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 ½ - 4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (plus some extra) canola or vegetable oil
One 14-15 ounce can chopped tomatoes, with juice
Once 12 ounce bottle Guinness or dark ale**

* For the onions, I saw this “cut into half rounds” description a couple of times in the book. As near as I can tell, this means to cut the onion in half lengthwise and then slice (so that the layers of the onion make a rainbow type pattern when sliced).

** We don’t normally have Guinness beer in our house. But, being a good Texan, I do quite often have Shiner Bock. The Shiner Bock worked great in this recipe.

You will also need:

Large skillet
1 gallon sized zip top baggie
5-7 quart slow cooker


Arrange the potatoes, carrots, 1 teaspoon of the salt and the pepper in the insert of the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.

Transfer the bacon to the slow-cooker insert and remove all but 3 tablespoons of fat from the pan. Heat the remaining fat in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, paprika, chiles, and garlic and sauté until the onions begin to soften ( 4-5 minutes).

Transfer the mixture to the slow-cooker insert. Put the flour and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt in the zip top baggie. Put the meat in the flour, toss to coat and shake off any excess flour.

Heat the canola oil in the same skillet over high heat. Add the meat a few pieces at a time and brown on all sides. Transfer the browned meat to the slow-cooker insert. Deglaze the pan with the tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the tomatoes to the slow-cooker insert. Add the Guinness (SHINER) and stir to combine. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Skim off any fat from the top of the stew and serve the meat and vegetables from the slow cooker.


Wendy said...

I haven't utilized my slow cooker nearly as much as I'd like because most recipes I find are "can of this" types. Putting this on the top of my "Next book to buy.." list.