The French Slow Cooker takes us to new heights
The idea of tackling French cuisine can be intimidating to the most experienced home cook. We have been taught that you must have a culinary degree, chef whites, and a toque in order to create the perfect soufflé, omelet, coq au vin, or cassoulet. But if you have The French Slow Cooker in your cookbook library, you can turn out meals worthy of a French bistro anywhere in the world.
“With the help of a slow cooker, it’s easy to make homey and inexpensive French food in any kitchen … the recipes in this book are not five-star restaurant haute cuisine. This is the kind of food you would enjoy in the kitchen of a good French home cook, or possibly a superstar chef on his or her day off.”
Reading through The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone was enlightening. I never would have imagined that I could make quiches, puddings, cakes, or pates in the slow cooker. This book opened my eyes to all sorts of new ways to utilize this incredibly versatile kitchen appliance.
If you have an old model slow cooker, I suggest you consider upgrading to a new one. The new designs have so many more options – look them over and decide what size you need and which features are must-haves vs. nice-to-haves. As much as I wanted all the bells and whistles of the top of the line models, I wound up buying a smaller size because the footprint fits better in my small kitchen and I am only cooking for two.
The French Slow Cooker opens with some extremely valuable information that would be perfect for beginning cooks or if you want to learn how to convert regular recipes for the slow cooker. For example, when cooking in a slow cooker, you want to reduce the amount of dried herbs or they may overwhelm the dish. Fresh herbs are always best when added at the end of cooking (or slightly before), keeping their bright flavors intact.
One trick that pros use to enhance the finished dish is browning meats and vegetables before adding the liquid. You can do this in a large skillet or Dutch oven and then transfer the ingredients to the slow cooker to finish. While not necessary, it does add color and flavor to the final dish.
Michele pulls from her extensive touring of the French countryside and cities to bring us the width and breadth of the varying regional styles. The country peasant recipes are particularly well suited to cooking in the slow cooker. They typically take many hours to cook and can be labor intensive, but Michele has figured out how to combine the ingredients all at once and let them cook together, melding their flavors and evolving into something you would find in any fine French restaurant in this country.
The book has 125 recipes, including:
Potato-Leek Soup (Vichyssoise) Split Pea Soup with Bacon and Croutons
Seafood Bouillabaisse Cassoulet
Crustless Ham & Cheese Quiche Bacon and Gruyere Pain Perdu
Potatoes Piperade Potato and Herb Gratin
Warm Lentil Salad with Bacon & Vinaigrette Rice Pilaf
Creamy Cherry Clafoutis Chocolate Pain Perdu
New Twists on Old Favorites:
Alsatian Lentil Soup with Bratwurst Salmon with Tomatoes and Mint
Spicy Curried Pork Chicken Bouillabaisse
Fallen Cheese Souffle and Tomato Goat Cheese Flan
Cauliflower and Potatoes Catalan Saffron Vegetable Stew
Moroccan Vegetable Couscous Spelt Pilaf with Mushrooms
Orange Souffle Ginger Crème Brulee
I have respected Michele for many years, following her career (and her husband Charles’) through her cookbooks and cooking classes. I loved her “The Italian Slow Cooker” which I got last year and I have now reached a new level of respect with the publication of “The French Slow Cooker.” She takes the oftentimes challenging cuisine and converts it to something than anyone can make in a single day utilizing the strengths of their slow cooker. Brilliant!
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