Nice and Slow

Believe it or not, Long-Simmered dishes can make for quick, no-fuss meals

by Nina Hemphill Reeder
Ebony Magazine · July / August 2017

Chef Kevin Warren in Ebony MagazineAhh, the slow cooker. Although it was likely a mainstay on your grandparent’s kitchen counter, you’ve probably never seen one in action outside of a tailgate or company potluck lunch. But if you’re not using your slow cooker regularly—or worse, if you don’t own one—you’re missing out. According to Consumer Reports, 85 percent of households own the appliance. And for such an inexpensive investment (as low as $10), it’s a thought worth simmering over.

“I would say the biggest benefit of a slow cooker is that it saves the cook a lot of time,” says Kevin Warren, a celebrity private chef based in Los Angeles. “You can put everything in a Crock-Pot at once, turn it on, leave for work and dinner is ready when you get home. You’re able to feed an entire family using just one pot, and it’s easy cleanup.”

For that very reason, the slow cooker, synonymous with the trademarked name Crock-Pot, gained popularity in the 1970s as more women joined the workforce. Though the convenient temperature-controlled electric pot is lauded as a modern day kitchen hero, slow cooking is actually an age-old practice.

“Going way back, scraps of pork were lebehind for the slaves to eat. Parts like chitterlings, pigs’ feet, hog maws, shanks and hocks had to be cooked a long time for them to get tender, and the longer they cooked, the better the  avor in a soup or stew,” explains Warren, who goes on to say that one-pot meals were also an early tradition among African-Americans.

Even today, says the chef, slow, low temperature cooking is the go-to technique in a chef’s repertoire for creating tender, fall-o -the-bone meat. It’s also a great way to really enhance flavors in many of your favorite dishes—even beyond simply soups and stews.

“Greens are tasty when cooked for a short period of time, but some of the best greens will cook long and slow for the [greatest] texture and flavor,” advises Warren who fondly remembers his own mother and grandmother using their slow cookers for family meals such as oxtail stew. But if you still haven’t warmed up to the idea of the slow cooker, check out the chef’s tips to really get things cooking along with two great recipes.

Slow Cooker Tips:

  • Maximize flavor by using bold spices and a small amount of liquid.
  • Aromatics add dimensions of flavor. Put in aromatics such as mirepoix (onion, celery, carrots), fresh and dried herbs (fresh thyme, dry oregano) in the very beginning. Adding salt too early to bean dishes will slow down the cooking process and lead to tougher beans. Wait until they are tender before adding.
  • Prep your ingredients (protein, vegetables and spices), then freeze them in bags ahead of time. When you’re ready to prepare the dish, just pour your broth, in addition to the entire frozen contents of your prep bag, into the slow cooker.
Beef Stew

Beef Stew

Serves 6

1 pound beef chuck roast
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup vegetable oil
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons tomato paste
32 ounces beef broth
3 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons paprika
Pinch nutmeg
4 large carrots, diced
2 yellow onions, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied in
butcher’s twine
1 large pinch dried oregano
½ head cabbage, chopped
1 pound fresh green beans, cut in half

Season beef with salt and pepper, then toss meat lightly in flour.
Heat oil in pan over high heat.
Sear beef until deep brown on both sides. Transfer to slow cooker.
Add remaining ingredients except for cabbage and green beans to slow cooker. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer
for 2 hours. Add cabbage and green beans, simmer for another 30 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper as desired.

Collard Greens

Serves 10

8 bunches greens, chopped and stems removed
2 smoked turkey legs or thighs
2 32-ounce containers chicken broth
½ carrot, halved
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied in butcher’s twine
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon onion powder
⅓ cup garlic powder
1 tablespoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
½ stick unsalted butter
3 onions, sliced thin
2 red bell peppers, sliced thin
2 green bell peppers, sliced thin
½ head garlic, chopped
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Add the first 11 ingredients into a large pot or slow cooker. In a separate pan, melt the butter, then sauté onions, bell peppers and garlic until all are soft. Add Simmer on medium-high heat, covered, for 2 hours. Remove carrot and thyme. Pour in vinegar, simmer for an additional 30 minutes.