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Paleo Slow Cooker (2013): Crockaeology

John Chatham, Paleo Slow Cooker: 75 Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Gluten-Free Paleo Slow-Cooker Recipes for a Paleo Diet (Rockridge University Press, 2013)

Not surprisingly, a food shot adorns the book's cover, but the title is large enough that I have no idea what it is.

This is not your mama’s set it and forget it.
photo credit: Barnes and Noble

I’ve seen a huge number of criticisms of this little tome in reviews, mostly from people who can only imagine a slow cooker a receptacle for raw, unprepared ingredients that get cooked while you are at work (none of whom, also, seem to have a “keep warm” setting on their slow cookers if they get caught in a traffic jam on the way home). If you start reading reviews of this book at random, you will quickly enough discern them. The best thing you can do once you have is ignore them; these are the kind of people, I think, who would complain if you decided to use your grill for something other than burgers and dogs. (Or if you put them on something other than white buns.) This is not to say there are not valid criticisms of the book, but “because it posits the ability to cook differently with a slow cooker” is a strength, not a weakness. You have a problem with the author recommending serving “paleo-friendly” breads or crackers with things? Don’t do it. They’re not part of the recipe, they’re serving suggestions.

First, the good stuff: Chatham goes soup to nuts here. The expected entrees are backed up with a hefty dose of soups, dips, and sides, even a handful of desserts. (I understand this triple-mini-slow-cooker thing is becoming A Thing, and I saw a bunch of recipes in here that would work perfectly for that sort of entertaining/potluck offering.) There are very few recipes in here I am not salivating to try; I’ve already done a few of the soups and been quite happy with them.

The not-so-good: things tend to get a touch repetitive. Which I might not have even noticed were it not for the wide variety of applications on display here. But then, on the up side, when you do major grocery shopping, you actually don’t have all that much to buy. (You just have to buy a whole helluva lot of it.) And if you are one of the unfortunate souls who don’t have a keep warm setting on your slow cooker, a number of these recipes run less than eight hours in duration, so to use them you’ll have to go lay out the twenty bucks for a newer model. Considering the time savings and utility, I think it’s a pretty good investment.

This is especially good for those who are generally cooking-phobic; since there is some prep work to be done on the stove with a lot of these recipes but the slow cooker handles the heavy lifting, it will give the novice a small introduction to the stove, while stopping short of getting into the complex stuff. For the cream of mushroom soup, for example, you saute the onions and mushrooms before dumping them into the slow cooker, which puts the cook at the stove for 5-10 minutes tops and only requires the absolute basics, so a fine way to introduce, say, teenagers who’ve never cooked before to the art—especially if they’re fond of cream soups that are instead made with lowfat coconut milk instead of actual cream.

I’d have liked to see a little more thinking outside the box (or, as it were, inside the produce box—Chatham sticks to the usual vegetable suspects rather than embracing the wider world of “stuff American don’t generally eat”), but as a basic starting point, I found it worthwhile. ***

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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