Reviewed by Katy Killilea
Who doesn’t like their dinner hot, ready, and waiting? For this and many other reasons, slow cookers make people happy. The notion of slow cookers as frumpy pot roast factories is completely outdated, if Facebook is any kind of bellwether. There all the cool kids are swapping secrets for transforming ingredients, slowly and effortlessly, into amazing meals. This year cookbooks are finally catching up to the humble appliance’s current batch of adoring fans.
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow is the astounding collection of recipes from the (also astounding, if you’re into this kind of thing) home cook who resolved to use her slow cooker daily for an entire year. The collection started as a blog and makes a surprisingly useful and very diverse book. There are quite a few of the “dump in a jar of this and a glop of that” recipes (e.g. Applesauce Chicken or Cheeseburger Soup–featuring Velveeta!) that people pretend to hate (but love) as well as many more that use whole ingredients, prepared from scratch (like Quinoa Casserole or Chipotle Chicken with Sweet Potatoes). All this plus cool ideas like brownies baked–slow cooked, that is–in coffee mugs, then topped with ice cream. Did I mention instructions for making crayons and air freshener? Most of the recipes are geared toward families, and it’s all gluten free, since one of the author’s children has a wheat intolerance.
Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever is the first slow cooker book I’ve seen that is huge, comprehensive, and beautifully designed. The typefaces and photography make this great couch-time reading, and there’s a nice balance of lowbrow and high-ish brow cooking here. In our house the Refried Bean Casserole is given an A+ and can be made with the refried beans of your choice–whether that means you sort and start soaking the beans a day ahead, or crank open some cans. New classicsÂ (Veggie Cassoulet, Chicken Braised in Stout) and old favorites like chicken pot pie and brisket are all here. This is, after all, a book with over 400 recipes–along with your pot’s instruction manual, it may be the only book you need.
Art of the Slow Cooker is just as gorgeous, less diffuse, and more showstopper than family-oriented. No shortcuts here: bar from your mind the bowls and skillets that will require washing once the Chevre and Pumpkin Lasagna is assembled in the cooker–it will be hot, ready and waiting at dinnertime, and the cleanup will be in the distant past by the time you dig in. And there are plenty of simpler recipes to knock one’s socks off. Curried Coconut Chicken Soup is made almost entirely from pantry ingredients and feels just right when stumbling in from a cold, dark, interminable soccer practice. Fancy or simple, the recipes here will convince any slow cooker skeptics that slow is the way to go.
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow
by Stephanie O’Dea
2009 Hyperion $19.99
Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever
by Diane Phillips
2009 Chronicle $24.95
Art of the Slow Cooker
by Andrew Schloss
2008 ChronicleÂ $24.95
The publishers of these books provided copies for review. Kidoinfo has no undisclosed relationship with the publishers and does not accept payment for reviews.