Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Slow Cookers Move into the Fast Lane ; Check Your Attic; You Probably Got One as a Wedding Gift

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Slow Cookers Move into the Fast Lane ; Check Your Attic; You Probably Got One as a Wedding Gift

Article excerpt

For people with full schedules and little time to cook, a crock pot is a time-saving producer of soups, stews, and chilies.

Slow-cooker recipes often involve a slab of meat, potatoes, onions, and a can of "cream of something" soup. Simply drop them into the pot in the morning before work, set the cooker on "low," and dinner should be ready when you get home.

Meals made in the cooker - popularized and trademarked by the Rival Co. as the Crock-Pot in 1971, don't carry a lot of glamour, but Lora Brody hopes to change that.

Her new book, "Slow Cooker Cooking" (HarperCollins, $14.95), includes a more-elegant array of recipes with titles such as "Braised Rabbit With Mustard and Cream Sauce," "Moroccan Chicken With Prunes and Couscous," and "Lamb-Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Yogurt-Dill Sauce."

Such offerings, Ms. Brody hopes, will move the slow cooker out of the pantry and into the center of the kitchen. No longer, she says, should people be concerned about the cooker's "blue collar" image.

"People whisper: 'Yeah I use a slow cooker, but don't tell anybody.' So I'm trying to upgrade that to: 'Yeah I use one, and I'm proud of it,' " she says.

Brody's book is designed for home cooks who can afford to spend more time in the kitchen than at the office. Many of the recipes include more than a dozen ingredients, and preparation time can take up to an hour before you turn on the pot.

For those who lack free time, she recommends simpler recipes like the one for caramelized onions, which only requires onions and butter. "That's the first thing that I make for the nonbelievers. What happens is strangers start to ring your [door]bell. The smell is unbelievable, irresistible, it's incredibly seductive," she says.

The slow cooker has been around since 1970. It consists of a metal housing with an electric heating coil, a ceramic pot or "insert," and a lid made of glass or plastic. Pots range in size from two to six quarts. Rival, the leading maker of slow cookers based in Kansas City, Mo., claims to have sold more than 80 million Crock-Pots since their inception. Slow cookers remain primarily a North American phenomenon. More than two-thirds of American households now own them, making them the second-most popular small kitchen appliance, after toasters.

Like many people, Brody got her first slow cooker as a wedding present in the 1970s. Back then, she says, "I couldn't cook. I could make fish sticks that were frozen on the inside and burnt on the outside. But I knew if I threw certain ingredients in, and I followed the recipe, I could make something other people would eat. So it was really a lifesaver for a new bride."

Brody, who has now written 23 cookbooks, including three on bread machines, points out that slow cookers offer more advantages than just a simple way to cook. "It saves electricity. It conserves on heat, it doesn't heat up your kitchen, and once it's done, you can allow it to keep cooking and nothing bad happens, so you don't have to rush home like if you had a cake in the oven. …

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