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Slow Cooker Comfort Food:
275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes
By Judith Finlayson
ISBN: 0778802248
Publisher: Robert Rose
Publication date: September, 2009
Format: Paperback
Number of recipes: 275
List price: $24.95
Type: Slow cooker, Comfort food
Sample recipe: Mushroom "Cassoulet"
Intended audience: novice advanced beginner good home cook gourmet professional
Apparent goal: stocking stuffer sampler comprehensive encyclopedia coffee-table
Meal part: all breakfast/brunch lunch dinner dessert
Competition: outclassed a bit behind in the pack strong challenger likely champ
Variety: too little too much unusual nice mix just right
Practical recipes: <20% <40% <60% <80% ≥80%
# of ingredients: ≤4 ≤7 ≤10 ≤12 >12
Ingredient hunt: airfare required online specialty store supermarket pantry
Recipe complexity: too hard simple medium challenging professional
Instructions: inadequate verbose minimal complete educational
Time conscious: not conscious bald lies white lies realistic scout's honor
Cooking time: weekend project takes all day takes time ≥30 minutes <30 minutes
Added info: zip overwhelming scant ample generous
Photos/drawings: none drawings b&w photos occasional color all color
Art contribution: disappointing distracting decorative beautiful glorious
Recipe results: ≤dorm food casual food family meals fancy food fit for royalty
Nutritional info: none overwhelming hit or miss adequate comprehensive
Format/Ease of Use
Layout: ugh cluttered fine kind work of art
Legibility: unpleasant challenging ok clear brilliant
Production quality: cheesy delicate years of service gift quality stunning
Page numbers: hard-to-find spotty sufficient most pages every page
Table of contents: missing frustrating minimal helpful excellent
Index: none confusing adequate nice a treasure
Page flipping: upsetting tedious acceptable rare never
Writing history: beginner writer/journalist food writer writing cook personality
Cooking heritage: unknown self-taught teacher chef celebrity
Fulfills ambitions: falls short satisfactory successful exceeds home run
Flavor delivered: sad inconsistent tasty delicious exceptional
Overall tone: sterile trying too hard straightforward good friend mom
Value: ouch! a little pricey worth splurging on the money a deal
Overall rating: skip it good very good excellent Ochef Top 100

Comments: Seems to us that the title is a little redundant – what besides comfort food are you going to get from a slow cooker? It's not like there's slow-cooker sushi or slow-cooker fusion food.

Nevertheless, Judith Finlayson clearly extends the boundaries of comfort food with this book. There is a certain amount of Cajun Seasoning and jalapeno and Scotch bonnet chile peppers, which we have never associated with comfort food, as well as an abundance of ethnic or international dishes. Finlayson makes the argument that comfort foods need not be boring – they can be robust, with an international flair, and have the potential to transcend time, place, memory, and "work their way into our hearts."

We are still wrestling with this theory a little bit, but perhaps there are only 100 or 150 recipes that we think of as comfort foods, and if you're going to feature 275 recipes, perhaps you do have to push the envelope a bit. And perhaps our comfort-foods vocabulary does need expanding.

The book starts with an ode to the slow cooker, with information on basic operations, time management, and food safety. Subsequent chapters feature recipes, for bread and breakfast, starters and snacks, soups, poultry, fish and seafood, beef and veal, pork and lamb, meatless main dishes, grains and side dishes, and desserts. There are notes throughout the book on recipes the author considers "entertaining worthy," as well as which are suitable for vegetarians and vegans, which bits can be made in advance, and which recipes can be halved, for production in a small slow-cooker.

These are not recipes where you chuck ingredients into the slow cooker; they require some preparation, but slow-cooker dishes that do not require some preparation are not worth making.

We remain totally confused with the statement that the Zuppa di Pesce "doesn't contain any seafood," when it clearly contains seafood (as any fish soup would), but perhaps it's just an editing error (something we generally overlook). And risotto – whether made in a slow cooker or not – is not made with barley, wild rice, or short-grain brown rice. Whatever that dish is, it is not risotto.

The more recipes we read, the more we got the impression that the book (or author) feels a little guilty focusing on comfort foods, and intentionally shortchanges the comfort portion. Nonetheless, this is a very workmanlike book of recipes that will help get dinner on the table – and likely expand your comfort-food horizons a bit.


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