East Hamptonite Martha Stewart released her latest book in August—her 87th book, by some counts. Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker offers “110 recipes for flavorful, foolproof dishes (including desserts), plus test-kitchen tips and strategies.”
Of course Stewart doesn’t create her books alone. Her foreword notes that a talented team worked this one out. And it shows. There’s a lot to chew on here. Neatly divided into Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Meatless, Side Dishes, Breakfast, Sweets, and Stocks and Sauces, the tome offers a selection of tantalizing dishes that draw on a variety of cuisines, accompanied by brief, straight-forward instructions.
I like this book a lot. The look of it (with gorgeous photos by Kent Johnson), the clean layout, the no-nonsense advice. So I dove in and tried making its Pasta e Fagioli and its Rice Pudding.
Both turned out well—almost as good as when I make them in the more traditional fashion. The pasta was a little gluey, but it was fully cooked after 20 minutes on high in the slow cooker, which came as a great relief.
The slow cooker was invented in 1940 for use by observant Jews, and America has been in love with its slow cookers since the 1970s, when more women than ever before entered the workforce. Fill it and forget it, then come home to a hot, home-cooked meal. Sounds like a great plan. But Martha Stewart’s staff assures us that they spent months in the test kitchen tweaking these recipes, getting them just right. Since “crispy” and “caramelized” are not attributes often associated with slow cooker preparations, it’s not unusual for a recipe to require some precooking, or to need more cooking after the slow cooker has done its job. Fresh garnishes such as cilantro, dill or grated cheese, also add to the gustatory excitement.
I don’t know why the creators often confuse “broth” (made with meat and skin) and “stock” (made with bones), especially since they give recipes for the latter. And I don’t know why they conflated “grunt” with “slump,” when everyone knows a slump is often served inverted, with the biscuit on the bottom. But I say hats off to any cookbook that intentionally avoids using boneless chicken breasts. I delighted in learning two things from this book: the term “propping,” which immediately became my new reason for yard saling; and the fact that some slow cooker inserts can go into the oven—one of those babies shot to the top of my list for Santa.
It’s interesting that slow cookers are “hot” again, when many people are already growing weary of their Instant Pots. It took our foremothers decades to find fault with their microwave “science ovens,” despite their shortcomings. Apparently slow-cooked savory stew from a pot never goes out of style. I’ll sup to that!
Follow Stacy’s informed and opinionated foodie adventures on twitter @hamptonsepicure