Health and wellness
Recipe Rescue: January 2015
By Patrick Mathieu
As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season winds down, it is time to reward ourselves with some much-need relaxation and recovery. Our frosty Canadian winters push us indoors, and there is no better place than the kitchen to start the relaxation process. Once you find a home for all the new gifts and put away the decorations for another year, it is time to dust off the classic, little kitchen appliance that was designed to prepare food with ease – the ol’ slow cooker.
By Patrick Mathieu
The slow cooker as we know it was introduced as the Crock Pot in the 1970s, designed for busy, working moms as a way to prepare dinner in the morning before heading out for the day. When the family returned home after work or school, there was a delicious meal ready to go.
A slow cooker cooks its contents on a simmer. Raw or browned foods layered with a liquid in a slow cooker will simmer unattended over low temperatures for a long period of time. There are many amazing benefits of using slow cookers that explain why they are so popular.
- Little to no culinary skill is required to produce a complex, flavoured dish. Simply layer the ingredients and allow the slow cooker to work its magic.
- Using a slow cooker to prepare a meal takes minimal effort and time. The only hard part is waiting to taste your newest creation.
- The cooking process happens unattended. The slow cooker gained popularity because busy, working families could create a great, home-cooked meal without spending all day in the kitchen, or even at home.
- Since the slow cooker uses simmering as its cooking method, you can take cuts of meat that may be considered tough and turn them into melt-in-your-mouth, tender and delicious meals. These cuts often come with a smaller price tag as well, which means relief for your wallet.
- Slow cookers were designed to prepare comfort food, which appeals to almost everyone. It does not matter if you are making a savory appetizer dip, a special Sunday stew, a classic pulled pork for the big game, or even a dessert, there is a slow-cooker recipe for every course.
At Relish, a cooking studio in Waterloo (www.relishcookingstudio.com) where I am a guest instructor, I am fortunate to work alongside one of the co-owners, Donna Marie Pye, who is affectionately known as the Crock Pot Queen. You may own one of Pye’s five best-selling cookbooks on the mastery of slow cooking. I have learned many great tips and ideas by her side over the years; for instance:
- Go easy on the liquid. Slow cookers have tightly fitting lids that do not allow any evaporation. The liquid should just barely cover the meat and vegetables.
- Trim the fat. There is no need to add any oil to the dish; trim away excess fat from cuts of meat to avoid ugly pools of oil.
- Thicken with flour. If you want a thicker sauce, try rolling meat in seasoned flour before adding it to the slow cooker, or use cornflower mixed with a little water to form a paste and add it at the end.
- NO peeking. Slow cookers are designed to do their thing; there is no need to constantly check on the contents.
Whether you are part of a working family and find weeknight meals a chore, or with your fire department family away all day doing live-fire training or working a 24-hour Sunday shift, the slow cooker is designed for all occasions. There is something classic and comforting about slow-cooker meals. During a time of year when warmth and simplicity are needed in life and in the kitchen, put your food on low and slow and simply wait for the rewards.
Bananas Foster bread pudding
- 5 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 can coconut milk
- 8 ounces crushed pineapple
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 loaf French bread or banana bread, cubed
For the rum caramel sauce:
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp rum
- 2 bananas, sliced
- Good quality vanilla bean ice cream
- Whisk eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Pour coconut milk and milk into a liquid measuring cup with the crushed pineapple juice. Whisk mixtures together. Add salt, nutmeg and pineapple. Fold in bread cubes; coat thoroughly. Pour into slow cooker. Cook on low for six hours until the bread is just set.
- For the rum caramel sauce, bring all ingredients, except rum and bananas, to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for about one minute, then add rum and sliced bananas and cook for a few minutes longer.
- Serve warm bread pudding topped with the sauce and vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
Spicy red lentil and pumpkin chili
Slow-cooker venison cassoulet
Patrick Mathieu is a 15-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue, where he is an acting captain. He has won several cooking competitions and has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities by auctioning gourmet dinners at the fire hall. Patrick will appear on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada on Feb. 14. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org