It takes a helluva chef to make slow cookers sexy, but we’ll be damned if Hugh Acheson hasn’t done it. Back in September we caught up with him to chat about Southern food; his quest to bring to life this cuisine’s complicated, dark, but inspiring roots; and, of course, to be teased about his new cookbook The Chef and the Slow Cooker.
Now that it’s on the shelves, we’re dusting off our neglected slow cookers (or buying them for the first time) and discovering that these old gadgets are the key to a delicious, relaxing future. With chef Acheson’s inventive recipes, you’ll make everything from stocks, to whole chickens, to jellies in your slow cooker, all while saving money, eating better, and having time to take up a new hobby, read a book, or, more likely, scroll through Instagram one more time …
Below is a taste of a few of our favorite recipes from The Chef and the Slow Cooker.
Pho with Chuck and Rib Eye
- 1.5 q pho broth*
- .5 lb beef rib eye (preferably rib eye cap)
- Chuck from the pho broth recipe, chilled and cooked
- 1 lb stick stick noodles, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes then drained
- 4 c bean sprouts
- 1 c fresh mint leaves
- 1 c fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 c fresh basil leaves
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 limes, cut in half
- Hoisin sauce to taste
- Sriracha to taste
- Pour the broth into a pot and heat it just below boil; keep it at that heat.
- At the same time, fill another large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring it to a rolling boil.
- Thinly slice the rib eye against the grain and divide the slices into 4 portions.
- Drop the soaked noodles into the boiling water, let them cook for 30 seconds, then drain well. In a bowl, toss the noodles with the sesame oil. Set aside.
- Divide the rib eye and chuck among 4 soup bowls. (The hot broth will cook the rib eye and warm the chuck). Evenly distribute the rice noodles, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, and basil over the meat. Pour in the hot broth (the amount to your liking), then finish with a squeeze of half a lime over each serving. Serve with the hoisin and Sriracha alongside.
(Slow cooker size 6-plus quarts; Makes about 3 quarts)
- 2 lbs beef shin bones, cut into 2-inch lengths by the butcher
- 2 lbs beef chuck, left whole
- 1 lb oxtails
- .5 lb fresh ginger, unpeeled, cut into 4 large pieces
- .25 c fish sauce
- 1.5 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- .5 tbsp whole cloves
- 4 star anise pods
- 3 medium yellow onions, unpeeled, cut in half
- 1 (3-inch) piece of cinnamon stick
- 1 head garlic, unpeeled
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and preheat a slow cooker on the high setting for at least 15 minutes.
- While the slow cooker heats up, set a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and place the onions, cut-side down, in the pan. Add the ginger and whole head of garlic, transfer the skillet to the oven, and roast the onions, ginger, and garlic for 30 minutes, until everything is well charred.
- Meanwhile, put the oxtails, shin bones, and chuck into a large pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Place the pot over high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes, frequently skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Skim once more and then carefully drain the bones and meat in a large colander, discarding the liquid. Transfer the drained meat to the slow cooker and add the charred vegetables along with the cinnamon stick, cloves, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and star anise. Pour in 4 quarts of lukewarm water. Add the fish sauce and the sugar. Cover with the lid and cook on the high setting for 2 hours.
- Uncover the slow cooker and skim off the fat that has risen to the surface. Remove the chuck, place it on a plate, and put it in the refrigerator to chill (reserve it for making pho with chuck and rib eye). Re-cover the slow cooker and cook the broth on the high setting for 6 to 8 hours.
- Strain the broth, discarding all the solids, and drink it now as the delicious bone broth that it is, or use it within a couple of days for pho. Otherwise, freeze it for up to 6 months.
(Chef Acheson recommends stone-ground grits; slow cooker size 4-plus quarts; serves 6 to 8 as a side)
- 2 c coarsely ground white hominy grits
- .5 c (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus more for serving
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Turn a slow cooker to the low setting. Add 7 cups of cold water to the slow cooker; pour in the grits, whisking to combine. Add the butter, cover with the lid, and cook for 2 hours.
- Uncover the cooker, stir the grits well, replace the cover, and cook, stirring every once in a while, for another 2 hours.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve with additional pats of butter for melting into the grits.
Beer-Braised Pork Tacos
(Slow cooker size 7-plus quarts; serves 10 to 12)
- 8 lbs bone-in pork shoulder
- 1 (6.5-ounce) can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 (12-ounce) can of simple beer
- 2 c crumbled Cotija cheese
- 1 c lard
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
- .5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 24 white corn tortillas
- 4 limes, cut into wedges
- 3 small onions, 1 large-diced, 2 minced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Canola oil
- Kosher salt
- Preheat a large slow cooker on the low setting for at least 20 minutes.
- Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels and season it very well all over with salt and the pepper. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil, and when the oil is shimmering, add the pork shoulder and sear it for 5 minutes per side, until golden. Transfer the pork to the slow cooker.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the lard to the skillet. Once it has melted, add the large-diced onion and the garlic; cook for 5 minutes, until softening. Add this to the slow cooker, along with the coriander, cinnamon, lime juice, chipotle in adobo, and beer. Cover the with lid and cook on the low setting for 12 hours while you drink the remaining cans of beer that came in your six-pack.
- Place a large skillet over medium heat and add a touch of canola oil. Griddle the tortillas, one or two at a time, for a few seconds per side until warmed through and toasty. As you process the tortillas, stack and place them in a resealable plastic bag to stay warm.
- Put the braised pork in a serving vessel and serve with the warm tortillas, minced onion, Cotija, lime wedges, plus any other toppings you love on a taco. (Author’s note: We’re big fans of adding some Cholula hot sauce!)
(Slow cooker size 4-plus quarts; makes 1 quart)
- 1 lb muscadine grapes (you could make this same thing with Concord grapes or other local grapes of your choice.)
- 2 c sugar
- 2 tbsp powdered pectin
- 2 tsp citric acid
- Preheat slow cooker on the high setting for at least 15 minutes.
- In a large bowl, toss together the grapes, sugar, and citric acid. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker, cover the with the lid, and cook on the high setting for 2 hours.
- Pour the contents of the cooker through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl. Using a spoon, smoosh the grapes through the strainer until only the seeds and skins are left. Discard the seeds and skins and return the strained liquid to the slow cooker. Whisk in the pectin, cover, and cook on the high setting for 1 hour.
- Remove the mixture from the slow cooker and let it cool to room temperature. Then pack it in jars and chill them in the refrigerator to allow the jelly to set up, at least 1 hour. We are looking for it to be easily spoonable but to hold on for dear life to that spoon. When it’s ready, make PB&J.
- The grape jelly will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.
Reprinted from The Chef and the Slow Cooker. Copyright © 2017 by Fried Pie, LLC. Food photographs (minus grits) copyright © 2017 by Andrew Thomas Lee. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.