Pros: a number of good recipes for those that work and want a good meal without a lot of fuss after work
Cons: many of the reicpes would be just as easy to make the traditional way
When I was just embarking on my culinary career I spent a good amount of time working in New Orleans. To this day I still have a fondness for the Cajun and Creole foods I discovered while living and working there. Fast forward 20 plus years and I am now a father and husband in a 2 income family. As such, the slow cooker has become our friend, allowing us to put together a dinner in the morning and let it cook all day so that we have a wonderful dinner to come home to after a long, hard day of work. That means that we are always on the lookout for new, and interesting, recipes to try in our slow cooker. So, I was very excited when I ran across "In a While, Crocodile, New Orleans Slow Cooker Recipes" by Patrice Keller Kononcheck and Lauren Malone Keller.
I know that there are some of you out there that are not fans of slow cookers, but I would suggest that is because you have tried poorly created recipes that take too many shortcuts. Yes, the slow cooker is a great tool, but it is not an excuse to take short cuts? Would you ever make a stew, or braise without first searing your meat, or sautéing your carrots, celery and onion? No? Then why would you skip that step when making stew in a slow cooker, like so many recipes tell you to do? Slow cookers are great time management tools, for working families, but it still requires a bit of work to create great meals from them, which means taking a bit of extra time in the morning. So, before you completely dismiss slow cookers, first find yourself some good recipes and give it a try again. Enough of that tangent...on with the review.
This book is a great example of both the good and the bad that I spoke of, in the paragraph above, when it comes to slow cooker recipes. There are a number of great recipes that are well thought out and are perfect for the slow cooker, but there are also a number of recipes that had me scratching my head, thinking that it would be just as easy, if not easier, to cook them the traditional way. To me, it doesn't make any sense to create slow cooker recipes that take 3-4 hours. That is not enough time to let it cook while at work, unless you hold down a part time job, but it seems like too much time to invest in a dish that you can cook up in 30 minutes, using conventional methods.
Recipes such as the "Royal Street Red Beans," the "Rex Roast," and the "St. Charles Avenue Chicken and Dumplings" are all great examples of some of the wonderful recipes that are perfect dishes for the slow cooker, with the Red Beans being a good example of that New Orleans favorite (and one of mine) or the "Canal Street Carrots" in which baby carrots stew in a mixture of brown sugar and butter for 5-6 hours. What's not to love about that?! For the most part, even the recipes that I don't feel are really conducive to slow cooker cooking make some good dishes. But a feel that the authors do push their luck with a few of the dessert recipes.
I understand that to really compete in the cookbook market an author needs to include a minimum number of recipes (usually in the 60-70 range), but I felt the authors tried just a bit to hard to justify all their slow cooker recipes. I would have been happier with a smaller book that really showcased just what a slow cooker excels at, which is all day long cooking. That said, there are a number of highlights in the book so I would recommend it for people that want to take their slow cooker cooking to the next level. There are plenty of recipes worth trying out.