The Italian Slow Cooker
A few years ago in Rome, I noticed a restaurant with a small window in its facade. In the window was a small brick alcove holding a large, round, greenish glass bottle filled with dried beans, water and herbs. The alcove backed up to the restaurant’s woodburning oven, and every time I passed, I would stop to look in at the bottle and observe the beans simmering slowly, absorbing the liquid and becoming plump and rounded and filled with flavor. It seemed like the ideal way to cook beans, but it made me unhappy to think that I could not duplicate it in my small apartment kitchen with a standard stove. Or could I? I had never owned a slow cooker, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the piece of the equipment I needed to to turn out perfectly tender, flavorful beans like those I ate in Rome. I could hardly wait to get home (well, almost!) to buy one.
Back in New York, I soon realized that slow cookers have as many devotees as they have people who own them and abandon them to a dusty back shelf. The difference seemed to be that those who love them have discovered delicious recipes and used fresh ingredients to prepare easy and satisfying food, while others relied on packaged and canned products and did not take a few moments to prepare the ingredients before cooking.
I bought a cooker and began by making my first batch of Roman-style beans in it. They came out just perfect — tender and creamy and infused with the flavor of the herbs and garlic I had added. Then I tried meats — tough cuts like short ribs, veal and lamb shanks, pot roasts, and stew meat. The results were fall-off-the-bone tender and savory. Even chicken turned out moist and juicy every time. To say I was hooked on slow cooking was an understatement. I made soups, pasta sauces, stews and vegetables. Then I tried grains like farro, barley and polenta and was delighted with the results and ease of preparation. I also made seafood in the slow cooker and discovered that sturdy varieties like salmon and squid turn out beautifully. My biggest surprise was how well the cooker handled delicate egg dishes like frittatas, and even desserts, especially creamycheesecakes and flourless chocolate cake. The gentle, low heat cooked them perfectly.
I compiled 125 of my recipes into a book which is now available. The name is The Italian Slow Cooker and it was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The book has a soft cover and lots of gorgeous color photos by Alan Richardson, one of the best food photographers.
Here is a recipe from the Italian Slow Cooker that I know you will enjoy.
COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS WITH TOMATOES AND PEPPERS
Meaty country style pork ribs are a great choice for the slow cooker. They turn out moist and tender and never lack for flavor. Here they are cooked in spicy sauce made with red bell peppers and tomato. Serve it over polenta or mashed potatoes with zesty broccoli rabe cooked with garlic.
4 pounds country style pork ribs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle them with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add as many of the ribs as will fit in the pan without touching. Cook the meat, turning it occasionally, until nicely browned on all sides. Place the browned ribs in the slow cooker. Brown the remaining meat in the same way.
Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the wine and tomato paste and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the liquid begins to simmer. Stir in the tomato puree, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat.
Scatter the peppers over the pork in the slow cooker. Pour on the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until the meat is tender and coming away from the bones. Discard any loose bones and skim off the fat. Serve hot.
© Copyright 2010 The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone