For a long time, Ricardo Larrivee, the Quebec-based cookbook author and TV chef known as Ricardo, was not at all interested in the slow cooker. It reminded him of over-cooked, all-brown dishes served up in his childhood. It took his wife Brigitte Coutu’s persistence to get him intrigued by the delicious food this timesaving, energy-efficient appliance could create.
And with that start, he began his slow-cooking journey, transforming old favourites, creating new braised versions of popular dishes and including dishes that speak of the 21st century lifestyle and tastes, all rolled into his latest cookbook Ricardo: Slow Cooker Favourites, from Lasagna to Crème Brulee, (HarperCollins; $34.99.)
Flavours like satays and tagines, dishes like crème brulee, brownies, salmon, pulled pork and wings are dominant throughout; recipes Canadians will find ideal for family and company meals. In his quest for delicious and successful dishes, he realized that some dishes will never be suitable for the slow cooker, so what you get in this cookbook is a selection of real winners.
Here are three samples to warm your tummy and invite companionship around the table.
Date and Lemon Chicken Tagine
Leaving chicken skin on during cooking adds to the flavour of the dish, but as it is flabby, pull it off before serving.
- 1 chicken (3 lb./1.4 kg), cut into 8 pieces or 4 each thighs and drumsticks, bone-in
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil, approximate
- Salt and pepper
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml) each ground cumin, ginger and turmeric
- 1 cup (250 ml) chicken broth
- 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into large cubes
- 2 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
- 2 tomatoes, fresh or canned, quartered
- 6 Medjool dates, pitted and quartered
- Peel of 1 preserved lemon, or ¼ well-washed fresh lemon, finely diced
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) each finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and cilantro
In a large skillet, brown chicken in half of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to slow cooker. In same skillet, brown onion in remaining oil if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic and spices and cook for 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits. Transfer to cooker. Add remaining ingredients, except fresh herbs.
Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. Add fresh herbs and adjust seasoning. Serve with couscous. Makes 4 servings.
Salsa Verde Pork Tacos
What could be easier - a pork shoulder, green salsa, salt and pepper and a dish that needs no tending while you’re out or in and busy. Store-bought green salsa can be very hot. Calm its heat with a mix of mild red salsa and green salsa, or all mild red salsa and call the dish, Salsa Rojo Pork Tacos.
- 3 lb. (1.4 kg) skinless, boneless pork shoulder, cut into 4 or 5 pieces
- 1 3/4 cups (425 ml) salsa, about 1 jar (16 oz./450 ml)
- Salt and pepper
- Tacos and Garnishes:
- Taco shells or tortillas
- Orange Cheddar cheese, shredded
- Iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
- Tomatoes, diced
- Sour cream and hot or mild salsa
Pork: In slow cooker insert, combine pork, salsa and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. With two forks, pull pork apart, removing fat. Adjust seasoning. Transfer pork to a serving dish with enough of cooking juices to moisten pork.
Tacos: Place serving dish of pork in centre of the table, along with taco shells and garnishes. Fill and enjoy. Makes 6 servings.
Sun-Dried Tomato and Olive Strata
Searching for a brunch dish? Here it is. You can assemble the ingredients the night before.
- 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 can (370 ml) 13 oz.) evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) whipping cream
- 6 cups (1.5 L) cubed stale bread
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/2 cup (60 ml) drained oil-packed black olives, pitted and chopped
- Salt and pepper
In large bowl, whisk together eggs, evaporated milk and cream. Add remaining ingredients, seasoning mix with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Let soak for 2 hours at room temperature or overnight in refrigerator. Butter inside of slow cooker insert. Pour in egg mixture. Cover; cook on low until a pointed knife inserted into centre comes out clean, about 3 hours. Serve with green salad. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Tip: If you have room in the fridge, add the egg mixture to the buttered slow cooker insert, cover and refrigerate overnight, ready to transfer the insert to the appliance and flip the switch the next morning.