Monday, December 19, 2011

One Great . . . slow cooker stew

The title "The French Slow Cooker" almost sounds redundant. After all, French country cooking brought us things like boeuf bourginon and coq au vin, long before Crock Pot thought about sticking a plug in a Dutch oven.

But that just makes Michele Scicolone's new book even more useful: A slow cooker is a natural combined with recipes like Soupe au Pistou and Bourride.

On a recent winter night, I went the bargain route, grabbing a package of country-style pork ribs and putting together dinner before leaving for work in the morning. We served it over creamy polenta (cornmeal whisked into half water and half milk), but mashed potatoes would do just as well.

Pork Ribs Hunter-Style
"The French Slow Cooker," by Michele Sciolone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).

3 pounds country pork ribs, cut into individual ribs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato puree
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence (it's not exactly the same, but if you don't have them, use a sprinkle of dried thyme, rosemary, marjoram and sage)
Pinch of ground allspice
8 to 10 ounces white button mushrooms, halved or quartered (I added some shiitake caps because I had them)

Pat the ribs dry with paper towels. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add as many ribs as will fit in the pan without touching. Cook them in batches, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 20 minutes total. Place in a large slow cooker. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the onions and cook 10 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the tomato puree, garlic, tomato paste, herbs and allspice. Bring to a simmer, stirring well.

Scrape into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours, until meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in the mushrooms, re-cover and continue cooking. Discard any loose bones and skim off the fat.


Ann from Fort Mill said...

Love her Italian cookbooks and didn't realize that she'd branched out. Thanks for the recipe.

Michele Scicolone said...

Hi, Ann,
Thanks for the compliment!

I love all kinds of good cooking, and once I realized how well my slow cooker handled Italian food, I knew it would be a big help with French cooking, too. Now, dishes like cassoulet or choucroute, which were once a big production, are easy enough for every day. No need to wait for a special occasion.

As Kathleen said in her article, a slow cooker is an electrified version of a classic Dutch oven, with the added advantage of needing little or no attention, so its perfect for just about anything that likes slow and gentle heat.

Hope you will enjoy French slow cooking, too. Have a great holiday,
Michele Scicolone