There's more to slow cooking than stew
Slow cooking made easy the Best of Bridge way
By: Susan Jones
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 03, 2012 06:00 am
The Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook should come with a warning: don’t read this when hungry or you may find yourself in the kitchen making the most comforting food imaginable.
This book is the full-meal deal, with recipes for nibbles and dips, full course dinners and even desserts such as chocolate pudding and apple cranberry cake. Most surprising are slow-method cooking recipes for banana bread and zucchini loaf and a buttermilk cornbread recipe.
The Best of Bridge phenomenon began in 1978 when a group of Calgary bridge players got together and self-published their first cookbook. More than three million of their first nine cookbooks were sold.
Five years ago the women retired and Robert Rose Publishing House in Toronto took over the publication of the books. Three years ago author/chef Sally Vaughn-Johnston joined as the lead writer.
“This is the first time Best of Bridge has dealt with a single subject, which is slow cookers, which are becoming popular again,” said Vaughn-Johnston.
There’s a nostalgic feel to the book, partly because of the familiar format of red-outlined recipes, complete with corny jokes, but especially because of the old-fashioned nature of the food that is lusciously pictured in the many photographs.
Half the recipes are traditional Best of Bridge fare, such as Catch a Tory chicken and Cowboy Pot Roast. Vaughn-Johnston adapted those old favourites for slow cooking. There are also new things to try like The Best Darn Chili Around and Spicy Pork Ribs, as well as a number of vegetarian dishes that include beans, lentils and curry.
Vaughn-Johnston, an Edmontonian, knows how modern families live. Like most of us, she’s worked full time, and knows what it’s like to have family members coming home at different times.
“People want to eat healthier but more often than not they come home and rush off to get a pizza before the five o’clock soccer match,” she said.
Though of course there are stew-like recipes included, Vaughn-Johnston’s goal was to make the dishes as pretty to look at as they are in the Best of Bridge photos. She tried to make the recipes simple, with everyday items that most people probably have in their refrigerator or cupboard.
“The Best of Bridge always offered gourmet results and I think we’ve stayed true to that whether you’re cooking for Wednesday or Sunday,” she said.
She offers several slow cooking tips to ensure the texture of the food is great and the dishes are colourful.
“Some people think that slow cookers produce food that is all one colour – brown. To make the vegetables fresher, I’ve suggested the ones that cook best in slow cookers, and I suggest adding them in the last 15 or 20 minutes of cooking.”
The best results involve some night-before preparation.
“You don’t want to be starting it at six in the morning. Start it the night before, perhaps by browning the meat and softening the onions in a frying pan. Maybe you’ll be combining the liquids and then in the morning put it all together,” she advised.
Desserts such as fruit crisps stay crispy because she puts a clean tea towel between the lid and the food so that moisture drips on the cloth rather than on the dessert topping.
Here are two recipes from the Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook, which would be a tasty accompaniment to Thanksgiving dinner.
Spicy Orange Squash (page 278)
A simple side dish for grilled pork chops, chicken or salmon.
1 small acorn squash, halved, seeds and membrane removed
1/2 c. water
2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
2 tbsp. melted butter
Grated zest of 1/2 orange
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange
Place squash cut side up in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour water around squash. In a bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, hot pepper flakes, butter, orange zest and orange juice. Pour into squash halves. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, until squash is tender. Cut each half into 2 wedges. Serve with juices spooned over squash.
Apple Cranberry Cake (page 30)
The perfect fall dessert. You can nap while it cooks. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
11/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg, at room temperature
2 1/2 c. 2% or whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 c. cranberries (thawed if frozen)
1/4 c. orange marmalade
1/4 c. melted butter
Grease the insert of a 31/2- to 4-quart slow cooker. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, whisk together egg, milk, vanilla and orange zest. Pour over flour mixture and stir just until evenly combined. Spread batter in prepared slow cooker. In a bowl, combine apples, cranberries and marmalade. Arrange on top of batter. Pour butter over top. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until apples are tender and a tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Turn off slow cooker, remove lid and let stand for 15 minutes before removing cake.
Serves four to six.