An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.

fast and slow

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Here I sit, with a measly two weeks to go until I turn in the manuscript for my book. I’m on holiday with my family in Virginia at the moment, tucked away high up in the Blue Ridge mountains for the week to enjoy the Thanksgiving festivities … and to write. It’s fitting that I’m spending these final days before my “due date” in the place that inspired the book’s genesis in the first place. Every time I’m here in these mountains – in this cozy, slow-paced hometown of mine – I am reminded of what a special place this little corner of the planet is, and my excitement to shine my own light on it with the rest of the world is reignited all over again. Feels like a privilege that I’m even being afforded the unique opportunity to do so, actually.

So, here I sit. Dotting i’s, crossing t’s … trying to compute and figure and calculate the metric conversions of each and every ingredient listed in my book. Trying to decide if I actually do like the chocolate in my chocolate blackberry cobbler or if I just really WANT to like it. Trying to figure out if the buttermilk-lemongrass granita recipe is as great as I think it is, or if I’m just really wanting it to be great. Those are two different things, turns out, and I’m learning that sometimes I’m very guilty of the latter. My book is, above all else, intended to be an authentic and real representation of the things I love most … so that is the lens through which I am scrutinizing it’s pages as I work my way back through it all this one last time. Is this real – I mean really real? Did I capture that right? What am I missing? Does this read the way it’s supposed to? Am I being true to myself? Will people feel the way I hope it makes them feel?

Yes. And yes and yes and yes. I think I did, and I think they will. I hope they will.

So, here I sit.

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I did manage to break free from Smoke, Roots, Mountain, Harvest last week to do a bit of non-book cooking, and I’m so excited to be sharing these recipe with you guys here. I partnered with the fine folks behind Martha Stewart’s latest book, Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker, and put my new Breville Fast Slow Pro cooker to work last week. I love this book so SO much (as someone who uses her slow cooker on the regular) and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading through the recipes. They’re perfectly modern twists on some classics as well as plenty of new recipes that I’ve never tried – or even thought of trying – so I’m very inspired to give many of them a go. The pages are adequately dog-eared at this point, let’s put it that way. I highly recommend this thoughtful and beautifully photographed book and think it would make a perfect holiday gift for just about anyone on your list … not to mention the Breville Fast Slow Pro, which completely lives up to it’s name, I might add.  You can speed-cook or slow-simmer with this part pressure cooker/part slow cooker and it manages to take all of the guesswork out of it. IMG_9740IMG_9781IMG_9745IMG_9790

I’m going to share two of my favorite recipes that I’ve tried from Martha’s book (so far), but as is so often the case, I’ve given them my own little spins here – my adaptations. Cookbooks, for me, are the greatest source of inspiration and I like to use them as guides more than literal, step-by-step, follow-down-to-the-letter things. This book fits that bill as well as any, and I loved the editor’s idea of slow cooking sweet potatoes and serving them with some luscious herbed creme fraiche. It’s sweet simplicity. In my version, though, I add some sweet grapes and rather than make an herbed creme fraiche, I opt instead for a vanilla bean and honey version, and voila – you’ve got an elegant yet rustic interpretation of the classic sweet potato and marshmallow casserole that so often graces holiday tables this time of year. It’s fantastic and so so simple.

I also tried the braised cabbage recipe from the book, and can’t get over how lovely it is. It’s a show-stealer to be sure. I add both maple syrup and maple sugar to the mix, and swap in pears for the apples, for a decidedly wintry and slightly more elegant feel – perfect for a holiday table.

I even slow-cooked a turkey breast last week in my Fast & Slow Pro, for a totally unrelated project, and was so pleased with the results – and how incredibly low-maintenance it was – that I can see myself doing that for years to come. I’ll be sharing that recipe (including my easy brine recipe and stovetop slow cooker) on Simon SAID this week, if you’re interested.

Okay! Back to the book I go! But I will leave these wonderful recipes here for you, and I do hope you give at least one a go . . .  for your holiday table or just because.

 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Grapes

with Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche

Serves 4 to 6; adapted from Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker

 

INGREDIENTS

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 thin and long sweet potatoes, any color, sliced into  (you can really use what you like, I just like the small ones  for size consistency)

1 bunch black or red seedless grapes

Salt and pepper, as needed

1/2 cup creme fraiche

The seeds of 2 fresh vanilla beans (or 2 tsp vanilla bean paste)

1 Tbsp honey

 

DIRECTIONS

Rub the sweet potatoes with the butter and then wrap each one in parchment paper, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Transfer them to a large slow cooker, and cook on high until tender when they’re pierced with a knife – 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Larger potatoes will take longer to cook. When there is about 2 hours of cook time left, add the grapes to the slow cooker to cook along with the potatoes. You just want them to be slightly burst, softened, and “slumped” a bit.

Meanwhile, combine the creme fraiche, vanilla beans and honey in a small bowl and mix to combine.

When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from their wrappings and slice them into rings (I go pretty thin, but you can cut them as thick/thin as you like). Arrange them on a platter along with the grapes and serve with the honeyed vanilla bean creme fraiche.

 

Maple-Braised Red Cabbage & Pears

with Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 4 to 6; adapted from Martha Stewart’s Slow Cooker 

 

INGREDIENTS

1/2 head red cabbage, cored and sliced into 3/8″ pieces

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2  large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced

1 Tbsp maple sugar (granulated can be subbed)

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup maple syrup

Salt and pepper, as needed

2 firm pears, halved, cored and sliced

1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet over med heat until fragrant

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Place the cabbage in the slow cooker.

Add the oil to a medium skillet over medium heat and saute the onion, stirring frequently, until soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker along with the maple sugar, vinegar, syrup, and a bit of salt and pepper. Stir to evenly combine. Fold in the pears, cover and cook on low until the cabbage is tender, about 5 hours.

Season again with salt and pepper, if needed. Top with a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts just before serving.

 

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Author: Harvest & Honey

Lauren McDuffie is a freelance food and travel writer, photographer, stylist, cookbook author, and award-winning food blogger. She lives in Indianapolis, IN with her husband, Lucas, and two children.

2 thoughts on “fast and slow

  1. Good luck to you as you finish your book! I’m certain it’ll turn out exactly how it’s supposed to, and we’ll all love it! Enjoy Thanksgiving with the fam!

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