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Techniques - Types of Slow Cooking

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
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© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Types of Slow Cooking

There are various types of slow cooking methods; you can cook dishes traditionally or in a slow cooker. Poaching involves gentle simmering in water, braising is excellent for sealing in flavor before long cooking, stewing produces wonderful sauces where the ingredients have melded together, and pot roasting is ideal for cooking whole joints of meat.


Poaching

The ingredients are immersed in water, then simmered very gently. This is good for both delicate meats, such as fish or chicken breast, and dense or tough meats, such as beef topside; a clean, silky texture is achieved. A fitted lid is essential for keeping moisture in the pot. Never attempt to rush poaching—hard boiling dries out meat. The traditional method (shown with chicken) is described here, but if using a slow cooker, simplify it by adding the meat, water, and any flavorings to the pot at the beginning.

Use enough cold water to cover the meat, then bring the water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and the meat. Reduce the heat and bring back to a gentle simmer, cover the pan, and poach for 30 minutes.

Add vegetables to flavor the stock, such as artichokes, carrots, fava beans, and any other green vegetables you want to include—maybe shredded cabbage or runner beans—and cook for 5–10 minutes until they are tender.

To test the chicken for doneness, pierce the thigh to the bone—if the juices run clear it is done, if they are red it is not. Tip the bird slightly as you lift it out of the pan so that the hot stock in its cavity runs back into the pan.


Braising

This technique combines both dry heat and moist heat cooking. The meat, poultry, or vegetables are first seared in hot fat and then cooked slowly in a pan with minimal liquid, just enough to cover. Searing helps to keep the meat succulent. The meat is cut into slightly larger pieces than for stewing. Slightly more expensive cuts can be used for braising, although this technique works just as well with cheap cuts. Braising suits cuts such as brisket, shanks, and oxtail very well. The traditional method steps are shown here, but the process is the same for the slow cooker up to step 3; after the alcohol has evaporated, transfer everything to the slow cooker, pour over the stock, and cook on either setting.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and brown the meat. Let the pieces sit for about 5 minutes until brown underneath, then turn them and cook the other side for another 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add a mixture of aromatic vegetables, such as carrots, onions, celery, and leeks, stir well with a spatula to collect the meat residue, then cook until the vegetables are browned. Add flavorings, such as thyme, bay leaves, and garlic, and continue to cook for a few minutes more.

Put the meat and vegetables in a Dutch oven, pour in some wine, and boil over high heat until nearly evaporated. Add enough stock to cover the meat. Bring to a simmer, cover with the lid, and cook in the oven on a low heat until the meat is tender.


Stewing

The food is simmered fully covered in stock or water, and sometimes wine. This is great for tougher cuts because the connective tissue and fat break down while cooking, releasing gelatinous juices and making the meat tender. For a slow cooker, transfer everything to it at the end of step 3 and finish cooking.

Cut the meat into large bite-sized pieces and toss in flour, if you wish (this will help to thicken the stew later). Sear the meat in hot fat and cook for about 5–8 minutes until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Add a selection of vegetables and cook for 5 minutes until golden. Remove and set aside. Deglaze the pan with a little stock or wine and return the meat and vegetables with any sturdy herbs, such as rosemary.

Pour in any remaining wine and enough stock to cover the contents of the pan completely. Raise the heat and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to bring to a gentle simmer and cover with the lid. Put in the oven or slow cooker to cook on a low heat for a few hours, until the meat is tender.


Pot roasting

This is essentially a braised dish that uses a whole joint of meat, usually of a tougher cut. Liquid is used to barely cover the meat, and vegetables and herbs are added to the pot. A pot roast is cooked in a covered pot on a low heat in the oven or slow cooker for several hours, until the meat is fork tender. The whole joint is usually browned first as this improves the flavor of the finished dish. If using a slow cooker, transfer everything to it at the end of step 2, pour in the stock, and cook on auto/low.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven until very hot. Add the meat (it should sizzle) and brown it well on all sides. Remove the pot from the heat, take out the meat, and discard all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot.

Return the meat to the pot and add vegetables and herbs of your choice. Pour in some wine and cook on the stove for a few minutes so that the alcohol evaporates.

Pour in the stock and stir well. Cook for about 3 hours in a low oven, turning the meat 3 or 4 times, and topping up with more stock if too much liquid evaporates.

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