By Guest Columnist Chef Rachel Willen
I love spring. It's the tentative, yet warm, wet kiss of seasons. Who doesn't want the weather to warm, the sprouting bulbs to wend their way through the earth to find sunlight, and bare trees lining streets to explode into canopies of green? Yet, for me spring comes with one long melancholy sigh as I realize I will be seeing much less of my slow cooker over the next several months and much less of the comforting fall-apart meat I love that is the result of the low-slow process the utilitarian cooker gives us. While I was researching, testing and planning weeks of spring recipes for my blog, foodfixkitchen.com, I came across a recipe for a lamb stew that starting me thinking about a classic French "navarin printanier" we made in culinary school. Navarin means lamb or mutton stew and when vegetables are added, particularly blushing new spring vegetables like asparagus, baby turnips and English peas, that's when the "printanier" or spring part comes in.
With a little tweaking of the recipe normally done in the oven or stovetop, and the help of the smart new Cuisinart 6-quart Multi-Cooker I was given by Cuisinart recently to play with, I am happy to report a wonderful spring excuse for slow-cooking!
The absolute stunning thing about this particular cooker, and why I loved working with it, is that it has a "browning" setting. It actually browns and sears, right in the cooker pot, right inside the cooker. Browning meat for a stew, even a slow cooker stew, is a flavor-building technique that should not be skipped, even though, for convenience sake, a lot of slow cooker recipes do skip it. With this Cuisinart cooker, you don't have to mess up an extra pot, or your stove with the browning process...and all the flavor stays right in the pot you'll be slow cooking in.
The browning function allows you to set the temperature as high as 400 degrees F, which is hot enough to get a nice sear on the meat. It also allows you to bring things to a boil, as in reducing the sauce at the end of the cooking time, without dirtying yet another pot!
Wouldn't you love to have one of these lovely cookers right now? Even though it's spring? Just to make this lovely slow-cooked spring lamb? Well, as a memorable way to introduce myself to KosherEye readers, and because Cuisinart was generous enough to offer a brand-new one of these to giveaway, one lucky reader will give this beauty a home. Enter here.
Now, a final word on this lamb stew. It's has the depth of a classic boeuf bourguignon, but on daylight savings time! It's perfect for the still cool nights we are having but gives a wonderful hint of all the green freshness to come. The herby-fresh pistou (fancy-French for pesto) with mint and parsley and basil along with the new potatoes, boiled, lightly smashed and pan-fried to a crispy, creamy perfection make this a meal fit for a spring celebration!
CHEF RACHEL WILLEN, CREATOR FOOD FIX KITCHEN
BLOG AND COOKING SCHOOL
"Food is the gas in your tank, it's the raw material of who you are, so why wouldn't you eat well?" asks Chef Rachel Willen, creator of the popular recipe blog and cooking school by the same name: Food Fix Kitchen.
Through her cooking, writing, teaching and personal appearances, Chef Rachel has delivered the credo she lives by: "cook well, eat well, live well,"
Her unique personal story is one of overcoming childhood abuse, traveling many life paths (actress, waitress, singer, caterer, stand-up comic, writer, graphic artist, and mother) to find fulfillment, culminating in a courageous, culinary-inspired reinvention. She acted on a life-long passion for cooking and went to professional culinary school at age 50, at the same time as her 19-year old son.
"I like to say that we followed in my mother's 'FOODSTEPS'" says Chef Rachel, "because she was a private chef for nearly 40 years, working until the week she died at age 86. She was a Holocaust survivor and knew what it was to go without food, so she lived her life as a gastronomical celebration. Cooking and feeding people was her way of healing others and herself."
Today, Willen's son, Max, is a chef working at Thomas Keller's Per Se in NYC, one of the top 5 restaurants in the world, and Willen is a Food Network's Chopped Champion, a nationally recognized food writer and founder of a successful NY metro area recreational cooking school. She has brought her culinary skills, living well credo, and message of "reinvention at any age" to schools, corporations, medical centers, destination spas, women's groups and charity events.
You can read more about Chef Rachel Willen at http://foodfixkitchen.com