Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Slow-cooker Tuscan bean soup

Blogging is proving very comfortable these days, when I seem to make recipes that have been blogged or posted somewhere else and I choose the right language to share them ie no translation effort on my part.

Today's recipe is no exception, you will find it here. The book it's taken from, Slow Cooker Revolution, is not very recent but it is my new slow-cooker reference. I normally use the internet or the crockpot blog, because the book I bought when I first got my slow-cooker is useless, and it's useful to have guidelines for recipes because eyeballing it sometimes result in disaster...

As you can guess, America's Test Kitchen have produced a book so detailed and geeky that you can trust it with your eyes closed. It is quite meat-centric and American-oriented, but it provides hours of reading fun and many valuable tips on how to get the best use out of the pot.

This soup is my first recipe out of it. There's this slightly dangerous recipe for Fagioli al fiasco in Tuscany where you cook beans in one of those 1, 5 l wine bottles (the pear-shaped kind with the straw around the bottom). You must put that bottle, stuffed with cannelini beans and water, plus sage and so on, in some hot ashes/coal and leave it there for a couple of hours -slow cooking without any appliances.  Anyway, this is a take on that recipe.

Electric fagioli al fiasco

Did you know that soaking the beans in salted water helps them lose their tough exterior and keep their insides soft? I didn't. I always thought you shouldn't salt beans at all until they've finished cooking - unless you use the slow cooker because long, slow heat will break down even the toughest skin. Break it down so much so that they can get mushy. Salting the soaking water helps keep them whole apparently. To verify this, I used the oldest bag of beans I could find in my pantry. I know, I'm so crayzee! And...results! The beans became creamy and soft while keeping their shape. The stock was still clear and to my mind lacked the soupy appeal so I puréed some to give it a silky, creamy finish. It's not very appetizing on the picture, even with the rosemary, but it tasted really comforting. Like cassoulet. Beans and pork (minus duck). And with a nice undertone of fresh rosemary. Adults liked it a lot but I won't lie, I got the kids to eat it only under the threat of no with the promise of TV.

apologies for the minging photo

When I lifted off the lid to fish out the bay leaves, I was confused by the limp, tan rectangle among the beans. I had forgotten about the Parmesan rind, that's what slow-cooking does to you. Early senility after 9 hours, ha ha ha!

So, anyway, more about the book. It's not "chuck everything into the pot and leave it to work its magic for a whole day" kind of food. That doesn't work too well for the illustrated cooks gourmets. Some recipes are flagged as Easy Prep and require hardly any effort, but many require you to get your pans, sorry, skillets, out beforehand, and some even need using the oven grill after slow cooking (ribs, chicken wings, etc.) But on the other hand it doesn't rely on the use of canned soups and other cheat's ingredients. Be warned. I don't mind because on a day when I work I could turn to one of the easy prep recipes, whereas on a day when I don't have to work I could potter for a bit in the morning or early afternoon.

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