Chef Laura Frankel has always been lured by the bells and whistles of kitchen gadgetry.
She’s known for buying all the latest, highest-tech tools that she spots in glossy kitchen catalogues. Her love affair with the shiny metal tools is usually fleeting, with one exception…the slow cooker. Her love for the slow cooker is forever, the machine a fixture in her kitchen for as long as she’s been cooking.
As is the case in Frankel’s kitchen, slow cookers are a staple in most Shabbat-observant households. Traditional Jews slow cook food in advance of Shabbat in order to perform the mitzvah of having a home-cooked, hot meal on Shabbat, without having to light an oven or stove on the day of rest.
Chef Frankel, the executive chef of Spertus Kosher Catering featuring cuisine by Wolfgang Puck at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies in Chicago, had relegated the slow cooker for Shabbat use only. “I used to stow the slow cooker in my cabinet for the rest of the week,” she said. “Shabbat’s over so you pack it up and move on.”
But a few years ago, Frankel wondered why she wasn’t using what she calls the “Shabbat miracle machine” during the rest of the week too. So she began utilizing her five (!) slow cookers, cooking the same meal in each to see which machine yielded the tastiest results. “We ate a lot of slow-cooked food for a few years,” she said.
Out of her slow-cooking experimentation came her new cookbook “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes” (John Wiley & Sons Inc.), the encore to her cookbook “Jewish Cooking for All Seasons.” In the new book, Frankel shares more than 120 recipes for everyday and holiday meals, prepared in the slow cooker—defined as a thermostatically controlled electric countertop appliance. The collection of recipes includes a range of dishes from the traditional Sabbath Cholent (a hearty beef and potato stew) and Dafina (the savory Moroccan answer to cholent) to Falling-off-the-Bone Short Ribs, Vegetarian Chili, Spicy Chicken Meatballs, Olive Oil Poached Halibut, Maple-Pecan Bread Pudding, and Key Lime Cheesecake. The book includes both recipes for the slow cooker and side dishes to pair with the slow-cooked food.
“With the economy the way it is and with households with [sometimes both adults] working outside of the home, people never have time to do anything,” said Frankel, who is also the founder and former co-owner of the kosher, upscale restaurant Shallots. “The first thing to go is the quality of the food that you eat and serve your family. Slow cooking is a good way to eat high-quality food in an easy and approachable manner.”
The chef points to her own family as an example. She could be stuck downtown working late on a snowy night, but the slow cooker is at home cooking for her so that she and her three sons will have a home-cooked meal waiting for them when they get home.
Slow cookers offer better meals today than in the past, according to Frankel. “The slow cooker used to have a bad rap,” she said. “Everyone’s mom used to throw a bunch of ingredients into it, close the lid, and walk away. If you take a little more time and care, you can come out with a much finer product with more depth of texture.”
Through her cooking and cookbooks, Frankel strives to broaden kosher horizons. She thinks kosher cooking need not be limited to matzoh balls and brisket. Rather, she views kashrut simply as a set of rules to follow as she cooks. She honors traditional Jewish fare, but also expands on it by drawing upon flavors from places around the globe including the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Mexico.
The chef’s favorite two slow-cooked dishes in her book employ influences from around the world. She is fond of Huevos Haminados, which translates from Spanish as “stewed eggs,” and Ribollita, a hearty Tuscan soup with toasted bread. “Leave it to the Tuscans,” said Frankel, “to do something clever with leftover bread.”
Laura Frankel will be the featured speaker at the Young Women’s City (YWC) Council Fall Insights event the evening of Thursday, Oct. 29 at Whole Foods Market Lincoln Park (1550 Kingsbury). For more information, e-mail YWCcouncil@juf.org or call (312) 357-4803.
What follows are recipes from Chef Laura Frankel’s new cookbook “Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes,” (John Wiley & Sons Inc.) for you to make for the upcoming holiday season and all year round.
Roasted Parsnip and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Makes 6 servings
The name Jerusalem artichoke is a misnomer. These bumpy tubers are the root of the sunflower plant, which is why they are also called sunchokes. They have a nutty, earthy flavor similar to an artichoke and when paired with sweet roasted parsnips, they are a match made in heaven.
8 large parsnips (about 3 pounds), peeled and cut into large pieces
1 pound Jerusalem artichokes (about 10)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 medium shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1⁄2 cup dry white wine such as chardonnay
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
5 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts, toasted hazelnut oil
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Drizzle the parsnip pieces with olive oil. Place the parsnips on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, until soft and lightly browned. Transfer the parsnips to the slow cooker insert.
3. While the parsnips are roasting, peel and dice the artichokes. Place the pieces in a bowl of cold water with the lemon juice to keep them from turning dark.
4. Preheat a slow cooker to Low.
5. Place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Sauté the shallots until they are slightly browned and soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the wine to the pan and cook the mixture for 3 minutes. Add the wine-shallot mixture to the slow cooker insert. Drain the Jerusalem artichoke pieces and add them to the insert. Add the thyme and chicken stock to the insert.
6. Cover and cook on Low for 5 hours, until the Jerusalem artichokes and parsnips are very soft.
7. Puree the soup in batches or with an immersion blender until the soup is very creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with chopped toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of toasted hazelnut oil.
Makes 6 servings
Each fall, when the first cold snap hits, I start looking for hearty dishes with big flavor like this homey bit of French peasant artistry, named with the French term ragoûter, or “revive the taste.” The delicate veal is complemented by the flavorful herbs and cipollini onions. Recipes like this are perfect for the slow cooker—all the way through early spring. The longer the ingredients “hang out” together, the better the flavor. Each ingredient has the time it needs to flavor and perfume the entire mix. I like to serve ragout with a mix of seasonal squashes, which soak up the veal’s sauce without overpowering the dish.
The veal can be made 3 days ahead of serving and can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator, or frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat gently, preheat the oven to 300°F. Place the ragout in a casserole and cover. Reheat in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
3 pounds veal shoulder, cut into 2-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
10 cipollini onions, peeled
4 medium shallots, cut in half
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 ounces (1⁄2 cup) dried porcini mushrooms
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine such as chardonnay
Chopped fresh sage leaves, chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1. Preheat a slow cooker to Low. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with oil.
2. Season the veal with salt and pepper. Mix the Herbes de Provence and flour together in a medium bowl. Dredge the veal in the flour mixture. Brown the veal in the sauté pan on all sides, in batches, adding more oil if necessary to prevent the veal from sticking, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the veal to the slow cooker insert.
3. Add the onions and shallots to the sauté pan. Cook until they are quite brown and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Transfer the onions to the insert.
4. Add the carrots and fennel to the sauté pan and cook until they are lightly colored, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes more, until the garlic is very fragrant and slightly softened. Transfer the carrots, fennel, and garlic to the insert.
5. Raise the heat under the sauté pan, pour in the chicken stock, and bring to a simmer, scraping up with a wooden spatula any browned bits (sucs) that have stuck to the pan. Transfer the liquid to the insert.
6. Add the tomato paste, dried mushrooms, bay leaf, and wine to the insert. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 4 hours until the meat is tender.
7. Serve the ragout with winter squash or your favorite potato dish. Ladle the veal and the braising liquid into a large bowl or deep platter. Sprinkle with the sage and parsley.
Poached Fruit Compote
Makes 8 servings
While some swear that eating fresh fruit is the only way to enjoy this delicious seasonal treasure, many fruits definitely benefit from a nice long poach in a fragrant liquid. It is not always easy to find fruit in the perfect stage of ripeness, but when slightly underripe fruit are slow cooked, they soften and become juicy and delicately flavored. I wrote this recipe with the combination of peaches, apples, and plums, but there are no rules regarding which fruits to use. I do recommend that you choose firm, slightly underripe fruits as they will hold up better to the long, slow poach. I served this gorgeous colorful dessert for Sukkot. It was a true celebration of the season and bounty of fruit.
This delicious compote can be served warm with ice cream or sabayon, or topped with yogurt and granola for a scrumptious breakfast or snack. It is equally delicious cold.
The compote can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 1 month. Once the fruit is gone, the poaching liquid can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, and used again to poach more fruit.
3 large peaches (firm, with no bruises)
2 large apples such as Honeycrisp (firm, with no bruises)
2 large plums (firm, with no bruises; see Notes)
2 cups sugar
1 bottle (750 ml) sweet white wine such as Moscato
1 large rosemary sprigs
6 whole black peppercorns (about 1⁄4 teaspoon)
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon (see Notes)
Raspberry coulis, sabayon, vanilla ice cream, yogurt, granola
1. Preheat a slow cooker to High.
2. Combine the peaches, apples, plums, sugar, wine, rosemary, peppercorns, and lemon zest and juice in the slow cooker insert. Stir to help dissolve the sugar.
3. Cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit into the slow cooker and cover the surface of the fruits. Weight down the parchment lightly with an empty pie plate. This keeps the fruits down in the poaching liquid as they are quite buoyant.
4. Cover and cook on High for 2 hours.
5. Remove the fruits gently with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skins. Cut in half and remove any pits or cores using a melon baller. Spoon the fruit into dessert glasses, bowls, or wineglasses. Serve with your choice of garnish.
I prefer the oval-shaped Italian plums, but any variety of plum will be delicious here.
First grate the zest with a Microplane, then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice.