Cooking Slow

Editor’s Note: Linda Avery returns with a look at prolific cookbook author and cooking teacher  Andrew Schloss’s (Mastering the Grill; Almost From Scratch, + 18 others) latest book, Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More.

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Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More

by Andrew Schloss
Text © 2013 Andrew Schloss
Photographs © 2013 Alan Benson

Facts: Chronicle Books, LLC, 224 pages, $30.00 (or Amazon Hardcover $23.91; Kindle $13.99);
Photos: 32
Recipes: 94

After releasing Art of the Slow Cooker in 2011, Andrew Schloss decided to flip it around. His new book, Cooking Slow: Recipes for Slowing Down and Cooking More, was release last week.

Immediately he addresses the difference: “The biggest difference between slow cooking in a slow cooker and any other piece of cooking equipment is water.” He points out that because a slow cooker is “sealed” the ingredients stay moist. The drawback, however, is that the constant moisture inhibits flavors from developing.

Concentrated flavors develop through the evaporation of water. Think about making a soup or a sauce or stew – the liquids are cooked down slowly to transform into rich, sometimes creamy, flavorful results.

In nine chapters, Schloss addresses each method of cooking in a slow fashion: slow roasting, slow baking, slow simmering AKA braising… (you get the idea – say slow before each of the following words – steaming, grilling, frying, cooker, sweets, and sous vide).

The time it takes you to cook your usual holiday turkey will look like a breeze when you see his recipe to slow roast a 15-pound turkey over 14 hours. That sure clears the afternoon to watch football. Most of his slow techniques require an oven temperature from 175°F/80°C to 200°F/95°C oven.

Schloss wisely makes note of food safety. Proteins are most vulnerable to the danger of harmful bacteria contamination so “when slow-cooking whole pieces of meat, fish and poultry, it is common practice to either salt the outside of the meat and refrigerate it for enough time to neutralize bacteria, or to brown the ingredient before slow-cooking it to kill surface bacteria.”

Many of his recipes begin with a high oven for 15 minutes before the slow stage begins. This will do essentially what browning does to kill harmful bacteria.

This salmon recipe is brimming with flavor and the leftovers are yummy too. I’m sure you can find lots to do in the 1-1/2 hours the salmon is cooking. Or, just relax.

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Salmon with Spiced Red Lentils and Bacon

photo © 2013 Alan Benson

Fish is easily overcooked, which makes it a strong candidate for slow cooking and an easy night’s work for the cook—unless of course you complicate matters by throwing something tricky into the mix. I love a culinary dare. Rich fish like salmon and mackerel are delicious served with beans, but the two cook at such different rates, they typically can’t be cooked together. By using red lentils, which are the softest of dried beans, and a forgiving fatty fish, like farm-raised salmon, I found I could trim the difference to about 10 minutes. A brief simmering of the lentils on their own does it; then the salmon is added and everything slow-bakes together in a low oven.

This is a heady, aromatic, elegant one-pot meal. A rainbow of spices elevates this homey dish to a sure thing for a splash at a dinner party—and stirring them together may be the most labor-intensive part of the simple slow-cooking method.

Prep time: 30 minutes; Cooking time: about 1 1/2 hours
Store: for up to 1 day, covered in the refrigerator. Reheat gently in a low oven.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
For the spice rub
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1 1/2 pounds/680g farm-raised salmon fillet, in 1 large piece about
1 1/2 inch/4 cm thick, skin removed
2 bacon strips
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup/180g red lentils
1/2 cup/120 ml canned diced tomatoes, with juice
2 cups/480 ml good-quality low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Method
1. To make the spice rub: In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients.

2. Rub 2 teaspoons of the mixture into the flesh of the salmon fillet; set aside for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200°F/95°C.

3. In a large cast-iron skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp and the bottom of the pan is coated with the rendered fat, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, then cut into small pieces.

4. Put the skillet over high heat. When the fat is hot, gently put the salmon in the pan, pinker-side down. (One side of a salmon fillet will be bright pink and the other side will have a strip of dark flesh running down the center. The bright pink side is the one you want to brown.) Sear until nicely browned on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Using two large spatulas, carefully transfer the salmon to a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil, browned-side up.

5. Add the onion to the fat in the pan and sauté over medium-high heat until translucent, about two minutes. Add the garlic and the remaining spice blend and stir until aromatic, about 20 seconds. Stir in the lentils, tomatoes with their juice, and broth and simmer for 10 minutes.

6. Using the foil as a kind of large spatula, carefully slide the salmon onto the lentils. Cover the skillet with a lid or a clean sheet of heavy foil and bake until the thickest part of the fish flakes to gentle pressure and the lentils are tender, about 1 hour.

7. Garnish with the chopped cilantro and slip onto a large platter or serve directly from the pan.

Variation: In A Slow Cooker
Follow the directions in the recipe. Use a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil 2 feet/6o cm long for resting the browned salmon.
Scrape the lentil mixture into a 5- to 6-quart/4.5- to 5.7-liter oval-shaped slow cooker. Using the foil as a plate, set the salmon, still on the foil, on top of the lentils. Drape the long ends of the foil up the sides and over the edges of the slow-cooker crock, like handles.
Cover and cook on low for 2 hours. Lift the salmon on its foil sling. Mound the lentils on a serving platter and carefully slide the salmon from the foil onto the bed of lentils. Garnish with the chopped cilantro and serve.

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