Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cookbook Review: Holiday Slow Cooker

By: Michelle Hershman
Did you spend your entire Thanksgiving slaving over a stove while trying to simultaneously cook a turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and stuffing? Well, stress no more. With the Holiday Slow Cooker cookbook you can “Set It and Go Celebrate.” Author Jonnie Downing adapts holiday recipes so readers can prepare all the classics without spending hours in kitchen. And we’re not just talking Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Holiday Slow Cooker includes recipes for party holidays like New Year’s Day and Mardi Gras to lesser celebrated holidays such as President’s Day and Bastille Day.
What are you supposed to eat on President’s Day? Thomas Jefferson’s Chicken Fricassee or Jackie Kennedy’s Beef Stroganoff. On Cinqo de Mayo you could make a Mexican Braised Beef with a Caramel Flan for dessert. And, on Halloween, try out the S’more Fondue.
Most of the recipes are adapted from classics: Hanukkah Beef Brisket, Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole, Christmas Roast Lamb. The difference comes in how these recipes are cooked. Instead of using the oven or stovetop, which is how most of these dishes are traditionally cooked, each dish uses the slow cooker. For example, the Classic Green Bean Casserole uses all the customary ingredients, but instead of using a casserole dish, you pour all the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook on low for seven hours.
For Mother’s Day Brunch, Downing suggests a Breakfast Quiche. One of the great things about a quiche is the crispness of the crust which is something I thought you could only achieve using an oven or stove top. The recipe calls for readers to line the slow cooker with potatoes and then add the meat, veggies and cheese. Next, you pour the milk and egg mixture over top and cook on low for 12 hours. My main concern is that the potatoes will be soggy at the bottom rather than crisp, but I’ll have to try the recipe to find out.
My other concern about this book is how readers would cook an entire holiday meal using a slow cooker when most of the dishes take the good part of the day. Sure, you can set it and forget it, but if you’re going to make Easy Tender Turkey Legs, Sweet and Easy Cranberry Sauce, Cornbread Casserole, and Pumpkin Custard, then you’re going to need four different slow cookers or start four days in advance. Although, it might be worth it to invest in extra crock pots so you can spend the day with family and friends rather than trying to balance a turkey roast and three casserole dishes in the oven while stirring the mashed potatoes on the stove top. Downing suggests that forholidays like Hanukkah, readers should cook a few dishes in the slow cooker to have more time and stovetop space for labor-intensive latkes and cheese blintzes.
Keeping with the easy cooking theme, the cookbook is an easy read. There are a handful of recipes for each holiday so as not to overwhelm readers. The instructions are simple to follow and the ingredients lists are short and sweet when they can be. For St. Patrick’s Day, all you need are 10 medium russet potatoes and toppings of your choice to make the Slow-Baked Potatoes.
To keep it fun, Downing includes interesting factoids about each holiday. Did you know that Father’s Day was a nationally celebrated holiday as early as 1910 but wasn’t formally recognized as an official national holiday until 1972? You do now! And if you’re trying for a romantic Valentine’s Day and are unclear what’s considered an aphrodisiac, you could try oysters, nutmeg, figs, or even almonds.
If you’ve never celebrated Bastille Day before and Coq Au Vin sounds intimidating, Downing’s slow cooker recipes cuts out some of the complicated preparation so you’ll feel like a gourmet when you serve it to your guests. With this cookbook, you can be well-fed and relaxed for every holiday in the year to come.

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