December 4, 2013

‘Cooking Slow’ makes a convincing case for doing just that

The book earns a place on your list of ‘possibles,’ holiday-giftwise.

By Bonnie S. Benwick
The Washington Post

It takes a confident kitchen hand to toss this one into the mix of holiday season cookbooks: “Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More” (Chronicle, 2013; $35, 94 recipes). Given the enormous popularity of quick, easy and five-ingredient come-ons, the subtitle might as well be “Recipes That Most of You Don’t Have Time to Even Shop For.”

click image to enlarge

In his new book “Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More,” with photographs by Alan Benson, Andrew Schloss persuades us of the virtues of taking time to cook. Some dishes take 10 minutes to prepare before a lazy application of low and slow heat transforms them; others may take hours, if not days, to prepare.

The Washington Post

But you’d be wrong not to pick it up and at least thumb through it – especially you, Millennials. Author Andrew Schloss persuades with dishes that can take 10 minutes to prepare before an application of low and slow heat transforms them. It’s a matter of convenient timing, he writes: “By keeping the temperature moderate, proteins firm more gently, making finished meats more tender, custards softer, fish moister, and casseroles creamier.”

A slow-cooker is one of the ways to do so; Schloss did, after all, produce “The Art of the Slow Cooker” in 2008, which is holding up well in its genre on Amazon.com. The oven, the steamer basket, the grill and cast-iron pots and pans are more vividly put in play here, as is that sous-vide appliance some of you might have splurged on two years ago.

Philadelphian Schloss is a veteran cooking instructor and one of the clearest, most thoughtful recipe writers working today. In “Cooking Slow,” you’ll find the bases well covered. The time required to make each dish is broken down in mini-chart specifics after each headnote. Chicken wings in a spicy soy glaze: 12 to 24 hours of chilling time; five minutes of prep time; and about three hours of cooking time, with storage and reheating information.

His food is tempting. Four pounds of the funky butcher’s cut known as hanger steak become a succulent masterpiece that makes its own demi-glace as it cooks. A dice of red-skinned potatoes fries in 75 minutes without absorbing the butter or lard that might otherwise render them into sodden cubes. Schloss’ method for Thanksgiving turkey is more easily measured in days than hours.

Even the busiest among us spend time at home, whether it’s doing chores, shopping online or catching up on episodes of “Scandal” late at night. The multi-tasker, or the furloughed worker, who dives into “Cooking Slow” will have something aromatic and delicious to show for it.

Fresh Shell Beans With Rosemary Gremolata

4 servings

Make ahead: The beans can be cooked several hours in advance. Reserve/cool them in their cooking liquid and reheat (low) before completing the dish.

Adapted from “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal,” by David Tanis (Artisan, 2013).

11/4 to 11/2 pounds fresh shell beans, such as cranberry beans, shelled (2 generous cups)

4 cups water

4 whole cloves garlic, plus 1 clove, minced

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Put the shelled beans in a small pot, cover with the 4 cups of water and add the whole garlic cloves, a generous pinch of salt and the oil. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low; partially cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Check to see whether the beans are soft, tender and creamy throughout; if necessary, uncover and cook them a bit longer (5 to 8 minutes).

To serve, drain the beans and transfer them to a serving bowl, reserving the cooking liquid for another use (such as soup). Sprinkle the rosemary, parsley, lemon zest and minced garlic over the beans. Drizzle with oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Cold Chinese Chicken

4 to 6 servings

This is an easy dish, put together in minutes and abandoned for an hour over a low flame.

Buy the best chicken you can, preferably free range. Look for large thighs that have a bit of the backbone included; we tested this recipe with Kosher Valley chicken, available at Whole Foods Markets.

Sprinkle the ice-cold jellied chicken with sesame oil and scallions, then give a squeeze of lime. If you want something extra, add cucumber, avocado and crisp lettuce leaves. Or shred the chicken and serve it with cold noodles.

Make ahead: The thighs and their cooking liquid need to be refrigerated for at least several hours and preferably overnight.

Adapted from “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal,” by David Tanis (Artisan, 2013).

6 large bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2½ pounds; see headnote)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

One 2-inch piece peeled ginger root, cut into thick slices

4 cloves garlic, sliced

3 whole star anise

4 scallions, trimmed, 2 left whole and 2 slivered

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)

1 jalapeno pepper, cut crosswise into thin slices and seeded (optional)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Lime wedges, for serving

Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Put them in a large pot and barely cover with cold water. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise and the 2 whole scallions; bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming off and discarding any foam from the surface. Reduce the heat to low; cover and cook for 1 hour.

Use tongs to transfer the thighs to a large bowl to cool.

Skim off and discard any fat from the surface of the cooking liquid. Increase the heat to high; boil, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

Meanwhile, discard the skin from each thigh. Discard the bones, if desired.

Strain the reduced cooking liquid over the thighs, discarding any solids. Cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least several hours or overnight. The cooking liquid will become jellified.

To serve, arrange the chicken on a platter, with some of the jellied broth clinging to it. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Top with the slivered scallions and with the cilantro and jalapeno, if using. Drizzle with the sesame oil; serve with lime wedges.

Cornmeal Popovers

Makes 10 to 12 popovers

Everybody loves warm corn bread, and these popovers have a similar appeal but are lighter. Be sure to use finely ground cornmeal; if a medium grind is the closest you can find, grind it further in a food processor. If the cornmeal is heavy, it will sink to the bottom of the batter.

The batter can be poured into a popover pan, a standard muffin tin for individual popovers, twelve 4-ounce ramekins or, for a big, impressive single popover, a 4-cup baking dish.

The popovers deflate quickly, so serve them straight out of the oven.

Adapted from “One Good Dish: The Pleasures of a Simple Meal,” by David Tanis (Artisan, 2013).

Make ahead: The batter needs to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 large eggs

1 cup whole or low-fat milk

1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/3 cup water

¾ cup flour

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal (see headnote)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use half of the butter to generously grease whichever baking vessel you’ve chosen (see headnote). Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, buttermilk and water in a mixing bowl.

Sift together the flour, cornmeal and salt in a separate container; gradually stir into the egg mixture to create a thin batter. Add the melted butter and whisk until the batter is smooth. Let stand for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Heat the buttered baking pan or dish in the oven for 5 minutes. Immediately pour about ¼ cup of the batter into each well or ramekin. (If using the latter, place them on a baking sheet.) Bake until the popovers are puffed and well browned, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve right away.

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