Slow Cooking For Two
It seems I’ve been deeply entrenched in making overly complicated food lately! Imagine my amazement when I pick up this cookbook and find that not one of the recipes requires four skillets, browning veggies before whisking up a roux or hovering over the stove for 47 minutes while some kind of creamy liquid threatens to burn. Every recipe in Slow Cooking for Two, by Cynthia Graubart, is written for the crock pot, and in its simplest form. None of the book’s recipes require a stove, oven or microwave for prep work. The author describes the book as not only for empty nesters and newlyweds, but also those living out of an RV, cabin or boat; in a situation where multi-tasking, consumption of counter space and loads of dishes are a major hindrance. I don’t live in an RV, but I do work a full time job and raise two daughters who have now entered the age of needing a steady taxi but are nowhere close to self-reliance in that department. Now there’s another daughter on the way…I needed this book!
I love simple cooking, but not so simple that it’s coming out of a can…or resembling something that you might see coming out of can. For as easy as this book’s recipes are to create, most of them cater to a wide palette and an almost upscale taste, and definitely commit to a from-scratch approach. Graubart gives you much to choose from including recipes for all meals of the day, such as Peanut Chicken, Black Bean Soup and Apple Crisp. Or Sherry Braised Lamb Chops, Spinach Lasagna and Chocolate Cake.
I settled on making a Mushroom Risotto (in the crock pot?!), Braised Short Ribs and Vanilla Custard. Since I wanted to eat them all at one sitting, and I only own one crockpot, I stretched it out between a Friday and Saturday. The beef ribs cooked overnight. The custard was made in the morning so it could chill for a good part of the day and the risotto happened just in time for dinner. Of all the meals I’ve pulled off while testing recipes from cookbooks, this was by far the easiest and least stressful.
The book is full of recipes written “for two” using a 3 quart crock pot. I only have a jumbo crock pot to feed my family of four (and a half) so I simply doubled a couple of the recipes. In the process of making the mushroom risotto, I discovered that my crock pot runs hotter than Graubart’s and the rice cooked too fast and was a little over done. Still quite tasty and if I wasn’t an unreasonably self-critical home cook I would have been pleased as can be! In my house, we eat meat, but little of it. So I stuck with the two-serving beef recipe and found it was the perfect amount to serve on a bed of risotto, and the sauce that came out of the braised beef was delicious! Though my favorite outcome of the whole experience was by far the vanilla custard. It was so easy to mix up and it baked in single serving half-pint jars in a couple of hours. I’ve always found the water-bath baking method to be a turn off when I’m looking for new recipes. Something about throwing jars of cream in a crock pot and adding water to halfway up the jar seems easy and didn’t deter me from trying my hand at something I would normally feel too lazy for. And it was just so good!!
Slow Cooking for Two includes some interesting recipe ideas such as using plastic liner bags to cook two meals at once and the creation of a “foil sling” for easy removal of larger items such as Stuffed Meatloaf. There is also more to this book than meals; it gives you bonus recipes such as Roasted Garlic, Caramelized Onions, Ginger Peach Butter and Cranberry Sauce. I’ll also say, this book is beautiful. The photos on the hard cover and interior are really pretty, the book feels good in your hands, the layout is attractive, it’s easy to read and for what you get, it’s inexpensive. I would probably go out of my way to buy this book as a gift for anyone that uses a crock pot or keeps a busy schedule but wants to eat well at home…Or anyone that could use a break from their habit of overly complicated cooking!