Michele Scicolone made me buy a slow cooker. She did it by writing The Italian Slow Cooker cookbook, filled with such irresistible recipes, to tempt anyone who doesn’t own a slow cooker to run out and buy one. Who wouldn’t want to try mouthwatering, traditional Italian dishes made easy?
Michele is a friend of many years and I have always admired her deep knowledge of Italian cooking and her meticulous recipe writing. One of the foremost authorities on Italian cooking, Michele is the prolific author of 14 cookbooks.
Her slow cooker book is not a typical, dump-everything-in-a-pot-and press the button cookbook, although some of the recipes are that simple. Meats are browned and vegetables are sautéed to bring out flavors and replicate authentic Italian slow-cooked meals.
Tired of salivating over a copy of Michele’s book, I went to Bed Bath & Beyond on Sunday and bought a Crock-Pot to make Butcher’s Sauce, a delicious pasta sauce. Soon my kitchen smelled divine, as tomatoes, garlic and meats began their four-hour simmer.
Of course, you can only call your appliance a “Crock-Pot” if it’s a slow cooker by Rival. According to the National Housewares Manufacturing Association, the slow cooker was first introduced by Rival in 1971 under the brand, Crock-Pot. All others are generically slow cookers.
Today, more than ever, a slow cooker seems right for the way we live. Twenty-nine percent of consumers are thinking of buying a slow cooker in 2011, according to a HomeWorld Business Forecast 2011 survey. And nearly 10 million slow cookers were sold each year in the past two years, despite the economic downturn.
Okay, I’m a new convert, but it makes sense to me. You can use cheaper cuts of meat and tenderize them by slow cooking, saving money. And sometimes, those tougher cuts of meat have the best flavor. Slow cookers are great for moms and dads, who can start dinner in the morning and have a welcoming hot meal ready for the family by end of day. For cooking newbies, recipes where you simply dump ingredients into a slow cooker minimize risk of failure. Even small households of one or two can benefit by simmering a big pot of soup or stew, then freezing portions for another time.
The Butcher’s Sauce was fabulous. Next I’m going to try the Green Risotto, then the Chunky Pork Shoulder Ragu, then…
The Butcher’s Sauce
Makes about 10 cups
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium celery ribs, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic close, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground lamb
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 28-ounce cans Italian peeled tomatoes packed in tomato purée, chopped
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the vegetables in the oil, stirring often, until tender and golden but not browned, about 10 minutes. If the onion starts to color, add a tablespoon or two of water and lower the heat slightly.
Add the meats and cook, breaking up lumps with the back of a spoon, until lightly browned. Stir in the tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste. Add the wine and bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste. Add the wine and bring the mixture to a simmer.
Pour the tomatoes into a large slow cooker. Scrape the meat and vegetables into the cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for is one hours, or until the sauce is thick.Source: The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone Houghton Mifflin Harcourt © 2010
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