So many slow cooker recipes indicate a “dump and cook” method, but then taste like that’s exactly what you did. (I’m not eating any food from a recipe that includes the word “dump”!) We all wish this simple cooking method worked in just such a way–especially during the hot summer months. In truth, many meals need a bit of pre-sautéing or browning before that long simmer or they are, to my palate, steamed to death and all the same color–the very reason some good cooks tell me they tried a slow cooker once and gave it away soon thereafter.
Sometimes it’s all in the name. Too long and no one looks further as it might take too much time. As in Steak Arrabbiata on Leek-Smothered Greens with Garlic-Kissed Wild Mushrooms. Too simple and we pass it by; we already know how to do that. As in Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes. Too esoteric and it’s a loser because who wants to make one more trip to a specialty store or spend time mastering an expensive or time-consuming, seldom-needed technique. As in Sous Vide Pheasant with Sautéed Leek Rye Rolls and Steam-Fried Homegrown Micro Greens.
(above: making the lentil risotto)
But Salmon on Lentil Risotto with Mushrooms and Fresh Greens (served with a perfect Cristom Oregon Pinot Noir–see below) just couldn’t be anything else. I’ve made it twice in the past two days and the only thing I could change is the risotto bit. We could possibly just say lentils, but you’d be thinking about boiling a bunch of lentils in a big pot of liquid and that just isn’t the way it is, so the name stands. You’ll just need to try it to see what you think of this whole meal in a bowl. Oftentimes folks choose a wine to go with a dish or a meal. In this case, I chose the wine first — I knew I wanted to bring an Oregon Pinot to this party — and custom-created a dish to go with it. This is a fun process for me and it’s one I often follow in restaurants. I check out the wine list first, choose my wine, and then look and see what dish will compliment it.
(below: our wine group tasting with Steve Doerner, Winemaker–second from right with beard and in brimmed hat– at Cristom, a favorite Oregon winery, in 2010)
This dish, used as first course for 15– here offered as a hearty main course for 8–was created to be taken to an Open the Bottle party hosted by dear friends, Drew and Jill Robinson (Drew did the wine pairings for my book).
(below: a WSJ quote about OTBN a couple of years ago)
“Memories – making them and reveling in them – is what Open the Bottle Night (OTBN) is all about. OTBN is just around the corner: Saturday, Feb. 26. We created OTBN in 1999 for a simple reason: All of us have that one bottle of wine that is so special to us that we plan to open it on an important occasion, but never do. On OTBN, as a world-wide community, we prepare a special meal, finally open that bottle, and celebrate the memories.”