Deep down the crock-pot is the bad ass Lacanche range of the 1970s. The Italian Slow Cooker, a new cookbook about the appliance, hit shelves last Friday from Italian food cookbook author Michele Scicolone. As she has written numerous Italian cookbooks, including The Sopranos Family Cookbook (wasn't that Craft Services job?), there is, not surprisingly, an entire chapter dedicated to pasta sauces. And it's good.
No doubt a slow cooker is useful — it cooks while you're at work Google-ing about what to make for dinner. Resist the urge to tackle entire dishes a la 1952, like BBQ pork and beans or something involving hot dog wieners. So thirty years ago. The problem here has not been the appliance, but the cooking approach. Instead, Scicolone tackles each dish as a solo project, even occasionally caramelizing onions before making dishes like tomato soup with burrata cheese (not to worry, you slice and serve the burrata when you get home, so it's not a soupy mess) and warm lentil salad with pancetta.
Get our review of the book, and her chicken with cherry tomatoes, capers and olives recipe after the jump (fabulous, really, despite the dull name).
The Italian Slow Cooker is packed with unexpected recipes: farro salad with roasted red peppers, stewed calamari stuffed with Pecorino Romano cheese and a flourless chocolate cake spiked with coffee. Did we mention it all happens while you are at work?
Scicolone says her fascination with slow-cookers started in Italy, when she would press her nose to the window of a Rome trattoria that had a pot of beans simmering in the window every day. The only problem with the book, and it's more of an inconvenience really as we are talking about slow-cookers, is planning the rest of the meal. When you toss out the classic cook-the-entire-dinner-in-one-big-pot notion, you're still going to need to toss a salad, maybe even add a sauce or two to finish dinner. But that's the point here: instead of popping a can of tomato sauce and frozen meatballs, try baking a pot of white beans with sage and garlic one night, chicken with cherry tomatoes, capers and olives the next. Otherwise, you might end up with an entire slow-cooked Amaretti ricotta cheesecake with blueberry sauce for dinner. Hard life.
Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes, Capers and Olives
Adapted from The Italian Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone
4 pounds of bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed (include legs and breasts, if desired)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (red or yellow)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup rinsed and drained imported black olives, such as kalamata
2 tablespoons rinsed and drained capers
Pinch of crushed red or black pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
1. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Place the pieces in a slow cooker. Add the tomatoes, garlic and wine.
2. Cover and cook on the low setting until the chicken in cooked through and coated in broth, about 5 hours.
3. Scatter with the olives, capers and additional pepper, to taste. Cook an additional 15 to 30 minutes, until ready to serve.