Vancouver Sun


Let loose and be more ad­ven­tur­ous with that slow cooker, chef says

- JU­LIA BAIN­BRIDGE Food · Cookbooks · Restaurants · Cooking · Dining Out · Recipes · Recreation · Ontario · Athens · Georgia · Ottawa · Montreal · Raekwon · Concordia University

Let’s face it: Slow cook­ers are pop­u­lar, but dull. Mute. Kinda sleepy.

Hugh Ach­e­son, the Top Chef judge and au­thor of The Chef and The Slow Cooker (Clark­son Pot­ter), is not dull.

The recipes in his book range from Ja­panese dashi stock to Mex­i­can sip­ping choco­late and tor­tilla soup.

Al­though his grand­fa­ther was born in On­tario of Scot­tish des­cent, “I feel much more com­fort­able mak­ing kim­chee, which I can eat at var­i­ous Korean bar­be­cue joints in a strip mall … than mak­ing hag­gis.”

His slow cooker dishes are far from the sword­fish belly with pick­led mush­rooms and lemon balm on the menu at his Athens, Ga., restau­rant Five & Ten.

Ach­e­son and his three older sis­ters were raised by a sin­gle fa­ther, an eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor, in Ot­tawa.

“He was an awe­some dad, but he worked re­ally hard, so we grew up on burnt rice and canned yel­low lunch meat,” Ach­e­son says.

Ach­e­son worked in kitchens from a young age, and when he en­rolled at Con­cor­dia Univer­sity in Mon­treal, he was a pretty good cook. Two years later, he dropped out to pur­sue his culi­nary ca­reer full-time, work­ing at fine-din­ing restau­rants across Canada and in San Fran­cisco, ul­ti­mately set­tling in Athens, where his wife was born.

“I knew that if I moved to a small South­ern town and did white-table­cloth cui­sine, I was go­ing to be dead in the wa­ter,” he says of his de­ci­sion to open Five & Ten as a neigh­bour­hood restau­rant with a daily black­board menu.

Ach­e­son says he’s “jazzed” about slow cook­ers. “You know, ev­ery­thing in the book re­ally worked well,” he says, re­fer­ring to the range of recipes the slow cooker made suc­cess­fully. There’s oat­meal, gumbo, boiled peanuts, to­mato con­fit, lob­ster tacos, poached eggs, cac­tus salad, fig jam and braised beef tongue.

“This rudi­men­tary piece of equip­ment has got a dy­namic spec­trum of pos­si­bil­ity.”

The book will prob­a­bly sell like crazy, but will peo­ple cook from it? For the hordes of cooks who swear by their slow cook­ers, the ap­peal is “set it and for­get it.”

About half the recipes re­quire ex­tra do­ings: brown­ing an onion here, fry­ing your own potato chips there. Those recipes are more like “do some stuff, set it, for­get it for a bit, check in again, do some other stuff on the stove­top, and then serve it all.”

Ach­e­son thinks we should wrap our heads around that, that is part of what good home cook­ing is.

“If you’re go­ing to just dump a bunch of s--- in a pot and walk away, you might as well buy Lean Cui­sine,” he says.

This book is about max­i­miz­ing a tool you prob­a­bly al­ready have, he adds, by learn­ing to use it in in­ven­tive ways that pro­duce more vi­brant food.

“It’s a gate­way drug to get­ting peo­ple in­ter­ested in cook­ing from scratch again, ac­tu­ally cut­ting things on your own again.”

Where the slow cooker re­ally shines is in mak­ing stocks, jams (you don’t risk scorch­ing them), brais­ing and hold­ing poach­ing tem­per­a­tures. And Ach­e­son makes good cases for each.

“Say, for fish, the cook­ing time is spent on build­ing a broth, then you drop the fish in 20 min­utes be­fore you eat,” Ach­e­son says.

 ?? AN­DREW THOMAS LEE/CLARK­SON POT­TER ?? Hugh Ach­e­son wants cooks to have some fun with their slow cook­ers.
AN­DREW THOMAS LEE/CLARK­SON POT­TER Hugh Ach­e­son wants cooks to have some fun with their slow cook­ers.

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