Slow Cooking for Two: Basics Techniques Recipes by Cynthia Graubart
Two months ago, my life changed in a strange way: I stopped cooking. I began working so much outside of my profession that I didn’t have time to cook. There were only two days during September and October where I made time to cook, not for sustenance but for filming. However, something else arrived in September that would unknowingly become a savior in my little household. Slow Cooking for Two: Basics Techniques Recipes by Cynthia Graubart became a mainstay for about two entire months in my home. I was never at home so I was never in front of my stove to cook dinners. I had never used a slow cooker in my entire life, let alone my career as a chef. As a professional I should be able to prepare meals for my family ahead of time because I was…professional. Here’s the reality: chefs rarely cook at home. When we do, it’s probably the easiest and basic of meals. I have a teenager so I’m blessed that I can make easy meals and he’ll be less picky about how I present it or how uninteresting the menu. Now that both his schedule and my schedule have evolved away from the dinner table, it’s been replaced with fast and easy meals on the go. The solution to fast food? The slow cooker. I don’t have to stand at the stove or by the oven tending or waiting for a meal to finish. I can put some quality ingredients together into the slow cooker, set it, and it’ll be ready in about 8 hours. The great thing about the slow cooker now is that you can still “finish” up a dish without spending over an hour doing it. Slow Cooking for Two is filled with tips and tricks on how to make the best use of your slow cooker. My favorite was the section for the slow cooker pantry. Most of you may have everything on her modest list to make wonderful meals in a slow cooker. And if you don’t, those items are more likely available at your local grocery store.
I learned some very helpful tips on what “tools” to use with my slow cooker. Did you know you can prepare TWO recipes in one cooker? Yes! Blew my mind, too! On Sundays, which happens to be the one day off of reprieve from working, I can prepare two separate recipes using slow cooker liners and make one of Ms. Graubart’s Double Dinner recipes. I felt immediate kinship with her because, like her, I have a dislike for large quantities of leftovers. Who wants to eat the same thing for 3 or 4 nights? Hence, Double Dinners. In her book, you’ll learn how to economize on a roast to make two separate dinners. I love it!
When you open a cookbook, what’s the first section you turn to? I always turn to the Poultry section. We’re not big red meat eaters (don’t get me wrong….I love a juicy rib eye or a giant Porterhouse once in a while!) so we stock up on whole chickens or chicken legs and thighs instead. My son loves chicken wings so I was thrilled to see Asian Chicken Wings. He loved the savory taste of the sticky sauce. It sure turns the tables from the constant spicy Buffalo wings he consumes on a weekly basis! We equally loved Five Spice Chicken Thighs. This recipe so delicious and reminiscent of a dish from my childhood. Chinese Five Spice powder consists of star anise, clove, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel. I love the aroma of freshly ground Chinese Five Spice. Fairly inexpensive, it’s a wonderful spice to have in your pantry. After the four hour slow cook time, the smell in my kitchen was intoxicating. The few ingredients going into the cooker may seem very minimal but you will be surprised to see that there was plenty of sauciness to douse over your hot steamed rice. Oh joy, this was so yummy! If you love Philippine Adobo, you have to try this recipe.
Beef is another favorite, but it is almost always ground for meatballs, burgers, or pasta meat sauces. Every once in a while, I’ll buy beef short ribs. I almost always buy either the short ribs, with the bone-in or I buy the “Boneless Country Style Beef Ribs”. This cut is actually not from the ribs but cut from the chuck or chuck eye roll. If you know chuck, then you know that that meat loves to be cook long and slow and does so very well with braised cooking methods. Ms. Graubart’s Braised Short Ribs was another hit. The sauce that developed over the 4 hour slow cook time was seriously good. The meat was so tender I stood there for a minute just eating a whole piece before I got caught and had to plate the rest. I went out the next day and bought more.
You have to remember that the recipes in Slow Cooking for Two is by all intents and purposes for two people and the smaller 3 ½ quart slow cooker suggested use is perfect for small apartments, mobile homes, and boats. BUT…the other great thing is that all these recipes are easily doubled, just be careful and reduce the amount of liquid suggested in the recipe. I used my 5 quart slow cooker because there’s more of us and believe me, using the slow cooker and this beautiful cookbook was a breeze….as well as a life saver.