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The French Slow Cooker
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161 of 169 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I love French food and I've been exploring recipes for my slow cooker, so I was eager to check out this new cookbook. It covers soups, poultry, meat, seafood, egg dishes, vegetables, legumes and grains, and desserts, and includes chapters on using your slow cooker, the French pantry, and basic recipes that don't require a slow cooker but complement the recipes in the book. There are many mouth-watering photographs that will tempt you to try quite a few of the recipes.

The book is well organized and Scicolone writes clear directions, except that she's a little close-mouthed in some cases about exactly how to remove some of the food from the slow cooker. When presentation is important for a dish, you really want some detailed direction on that point.

I was pleased to see recipes from many different regions of France, such as Alsation Lentil Soup with Bratwurst, Provencal Vegetable Soup with Pesto, Basque Chicken, Normandy Pork with Apples and many more. Many of your classic French favorites are in the book, but also some more unusual recipes, like Spicy Curried Pork, and Rillettes (spiced potted pork).

The slow cooker method will save time and avoid quite such a huge mess when you make Cassoulet or Boeuf en Daube. That's a bonus for me, since I still have huge stains on another cookbook from the last time I made Boeuf en Daube and it was such an ordeal I haven't made it in a couple of years.

On the other hand, I did think there were quite a few recipes in the book for which I can't see the point of using a slow cooker, like quiche, soufflés, pain perdu, clafoutis, and a couple of the vegetable recipes.

This is a good, but not great, cookbook. I'd say this is a good addition to your cookbook collection if you have particular interest in French food and slow cooker recipes.
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117 of 122 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 28, 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Michele Scicolone has written her 2nd slow cooker book which, as she explains in her introduction makes French cooking less intimidating. This book is not presented as easy recipes; but actually this does make French cooking easier. French cooking has a reputation for being difficult with slow simmering. The slow cooker solves this `problem', which makes it much more trouble-free. Instead of spending hours with dishes simmering over a stove they are prepared in a slow cooker. There is some preparation needed for some dishes, such as browning meat or onions, but for the majority of the dishes, with the exception of soups, the cooking and preparation is in the slow cooker.

The ingredients are common ones from the supermarket. There are tips and techniques for cooking and equipment use. A description of what should be in the French pantry is included. Recipes in the book are; soups, chicken, turkey and duck, meats, seafood, soufflés, quiches and egg dishes, vegetables, legumes and grains, desserts and basics.

Most of the soups do require being put through a sieve, a blender or a food mill. We did not have much luck with cutting the quiche we tried into wedges - getting it out of the slow cooker was a bit awkward and did not make for good looking wedges, and the taste of crustless quiches does not quite suit our family's taste. There are also suggestions to cook potatoes for a potato salad. This takes 3 hours in the slow cooker, when in most instances cooking them on the stove top or in an oven seems much more practical.
When I received this book, we had a large number of guests in our house and it was quickly put to use. We were very successful with, and everyone enjoyed the spinach and egg bouillabaisse and the Bargemen's beef stew.

This book does give good ideas for preparing dishes with a French flavor and has some ideas such as making a rolled aluminum stand for a rack to make some of the dishes. There are some good concepts in here and it would be perfect for those who wish to make some improved slow cooker recipes.
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73 of 78 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 5, 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I received this excellent slow cooker book from VINE to review. Normally I would try more than two recipes before reviewing a cook book, but based on the two that I have made so far, the Bargeman's Beef Stew and the Pork Ribs Hunter's Style, I am now a big fan of Michele Sciolone and will be buying her Italian Slower Cooker book. I like her ingredients and the straight forward way she writes. Both of these recipes were easy to make and the results were even better than I had expected. I love that numerous and varied spices and seasonings are used and I didn't have to improvise once they were done. My butcher didn't have country ribs on the bone, so I got the boneless and cut them in half. They worked very well. The recipe called for 8 hours of cooking time, but mine were done in a little over four. I guess because I browned them well and using relatively smaller pieces would account for that.

I know that you aren't suppose to 'peek' during cooking, but about about half way through most recipes, I feel an overwhelming need to stir. I am a long time and regular stove top maker of numerous slow cooked dishes and soups, it goes against my nature to 'set and forget'. So maybe it adds a few more minutes to the cooking time, but I am in no hurry.

These recipes do require advance prep, sauteing onions, etc and browning the meat, but I love to cook, so I don't mind doing the prep work.

I do not serve slow cooker or stove top slow cooked food the same day as I make them. I refrigerate them overnight, skim the fat, and then serve. Makes a world of difference flavor wise - including the two dishes above, from this book.

The copy that I received is a black and white proof, but judging from the excellent pictures, when it is released with colored pictures, it will be a stunning book, suitable for yourself or for gift giving.

I had no problem with the ingredients in the above dishes that I made. Aside from the meat and mushrooms, I had everything else in my pantry. I have been reading through the other recipes, desserts, fish, meat, poultry etc.. look equally good, judging by the spices and ingredients. My next will be her Garlic Soup and one of her salmon recipes. I have never cooked fish in my slow cooker, but these recipes look too good to pass up.

There are numerous tips, hints, etc.. at the beginning of the book, including what to look for when you purchase a slow cooker. The book is laid out in a clear and easy to follow format.

I have read through it and am anxious to make many of the recipes. My husband who really really dislikes most slow cooked food, saying that the meats are mushy with no flavor - had two helpings of the pork ribs, proclaiming them the best things I have made in my slow cooker. Now, that is a compliment.

When this book is published in January, I am buying a few copies as gifts.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Back in the day, the humble Crockpot gained prominence and ubiquity by making one simple promise: throw some ingredients into the pot when you get up, turn it on, and when you come home, voilà! your dinner will be ready. Easy, fast, and delicious! Except that it wasn't always so easy or fast, and usually far from delicious.

Now we have a new generation of cookbooks to help fix the problem. They run the gamut from Betty Crocker's relatively simple "Slow Cooker Cookbook", to America's Test Kitchen's more complex "Slow Cooker Revolution". "The French Slow Cooker" falls in the middle, with mostly simple and limited preparation time required, and an interesting range of results.

To review, I picked five recipes that I thought my family would enjoy. Some traditional French dishes I know they wouldn't eat, no matter how well or authentically prepared. That unfortunately left off things like bouillabaisse, garbure, pâté, and spinach soufflé. But here's what we did try ("prep time" is what I experienced, "cook time" is what the book recommends):

1) Crustless Ham and Cheese Quiche. (Prep time 20-30 minutes, cook time 2 hours.) I was hesitant to try this, half expecting the quiche to come out looking and tasting like an old tennis shoe. Especially when I had to cook it for nearly 3 hours. Not by a long shot - the eggs were tender, fluffy, and cheesy, with an absolutely perfect consistency. They tasted pretty good, too. The recipe calls for Gruyere, Comté, or Emmental cheese, and we prefer a cheddar cheese to swiss in our quiche, but that would be an easy substitution. If you insist on having a crust, this won't work for you, but otherwise I'd recommend it.
2) Potato and Herb Gratin. (Prep time 30 minutes, cook time 6 hours.) These came out with a nice taste, but after 6 hours, were overcooked and halfway between au gratin and mashed. You'll need a mandolin or food processor to get the thinly sliced potatoes. I also added some butter for taste. You'll miss out on the golden crust you get from an oven, but I will definitely try these again with less cook time (5 hours), and maybe slice the potatoes a little thicker.
3) Pork with Mushrooms and Cream. (Prep time 30-45 minutes, cook time 6 hours.) At just 5 hours my meat thermometer showed this was done, so I pulled it out and prepared the sauce. They recommend pulling out the pork, straining the liquid, putting the pork in a warmer, adding cream to the liquid, and boiling for 2 minutes. That's OK but gives you a very watery sauce. Try this instead: after straining the liquid into a frying pan, put the pork back into the slow cooker, set to "warm". Add 1 cup (vice ½ cup) cream to the pan, bring to a high boil, and reduce for 20-30 minutes. Slice the pork, serve with the mushrooms over egg noodles, and ladle on the sauce. Also, rather than slicing the mushrooms, keep them whole. Surprisingly good!
4) Beef Stew with Mushrooms, Rosemary, and Tomatoes. (Prep time 90 minutes, cook time 8 hours.) This takes a bit longer than some dishes to prepare, and needs only 6 hours to cook. But the beef is so tender it falls apart, and even though frying tomato paste always gives a slight off-taste, the result was a winner for the whole family. Adding the mushrooms at the very end was a nice touch; they ended up tender and buttery. I don't know that this was a particularly "French" dish, but it did go very well with a nice bottle of Mouton Cadet.
5) Herb Roasted Chicken with Garlic and Shallots. (Prep time 10-15 minutes, cook time 6 hours.) This was probably our favourite of the five dishes. I normally cook whole chicken on the barbie, using the "drunken chicken" method. I expected this chicken taste a bit bland, but the spices really came through without being overpowering. The meat was very tender and moist, and it was some of the best chicken we've ever had. Again, the meat thermometer showed it was done cooking after about 5 hours. When you take the chicken out, there's about ½ cup of broth remaining, which you can pour on the chicken or strain and treat as lagniappe to use with another dish. The only downside is the skin isn't nicely browned the way it would be in the oven or on the barbie, and it's not edible.

So, we tried five recipes, with results ranging between good to excellent. You won't get the subtlety or layering of flavours found in French restaurants, and have to give up things like browned skins and crust on your quiche. Most we will have again, and I've marked several others to try in the future. There wasn't any difficult or complex preparation involved, though I recommend you watch the cooking times closely and adjust for your cooker. Whether the dishes are "French" enough is up to your taste, but if you own a slow cooker, I can certainly recommend this cookbook.
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41 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Michele Sciolone is an experienced cookbook author, who has focused mainly on Italian food. Her Italian Slow Cooker book set the paradigm for this one.

The book is filled with good, solid French recipes that can be done well in a slow cooker. There are no miracles here. You won't find recipes where you can dump stuff into the slow cooker before work and come home 10 hours later to something Frenchly alluring.

What you will find is tasty French dishes that work. Many require significant prep, but few require exotic ingredients. Some are for things you could do just as well on the stovetop, and faster - but with lots more attention and effort.

But for summertime cooking without heating up the kitchen, or for those times when you want to spend a long afternoon doing something other than tending a stew on the stovetop, these recipes are great.

The recipes I have tried work well and yield flavorful and interesting results. Sciolone is good at specifying seasonings. So if you understand the limitations and don't expect miracles, you'll find a bunch of convenient high-flavor low-effort recipes. And that's a very good thing.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2012
I love using a slow cooker and hate "open and dump recipes." I already had Michele's "Italian Slow Cooker" book, and have used it quite a bit. I also have Dorie Greenspan's "Around my French Table," which is one of my favorite and well used books. Michele was able to combine French cooking with a slow cooker in a delicious and inventive way. I have made the pork ribs Hunter's Style, and the Veal Shanks and The Saffron Vegetable Stew, and they were all delicious. The recipes are reasonably simple, and the ones I have tried are very good.

The only thing I don't like about it is that it's a paper back, and is difficult to keep open.

I recommend this book, based on what I've tried and liked, it's a keeper!
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 22, 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've always shied away from French cooking because I've found it to be way too intimidating, but this book changes the game because the slow cooker does ALL the work for you after you assemble and prepare your ingredients. There is nothing like coming home to a house filled with the aromas of an exquisite meal you've prepared for yourself and only have to sit down and enjoy with a nice glass of wine or five! I have tried HALF the recipes in this book and I haven't even had it that long. I think anyone would be an appreciative recipient be it a friend or yourself and it will make you feel even more adventurous to try other things, even Julia Child! An excellent segue from fast food to fabulous food that you have done with the smallest amount of effort.
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23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
(I received a free black-and-white copy for reviewing, but I am going to purchase another copy so I can enjoy it in full-color. This will be the 3rd book I've done this with. Good books and their authors deserve it!)

The first time I flipped through Michele Scicolone's The French Slow Cooker, I found nothing I wanted to try. Plus, the "roasted" chicken on the cover I received looked like raw chicken - very unappealing. But the second time I picked up this cookbook, I was intrigued by about a dozen recipes. And the third time, I flagged a dozen more. So, it just goes to show me that I should not judge a book by its cover nor by a first glance at its contents; had I done my first leafing in the bookstore, I would have totally passed on this gem.

Now, what exactly makes this "French"? It's more than just the usual ingredients like Dijon mustard, Gruyere, and Herbs de Provence. Scicolone also incorporates duck fat, juniper berries, heavy cream, olives, fennel, shallots, tarragon, chicken liver, anchovies, and dry wine. The recipes themselves also are definitively French; there's a duck confit, 2 different bouillabaisse (chicken and fish), 3 soufflés, cassoulet, pate, rillettes (potted pork), Roussillon Meatballs (with green olives), Veal Blanquette (a creamy veal stew), Calamari Nicoise, 2 Pain Perdu (savory bread puddings), Piperade (a pepper sauce), Potatoes Pissaladiere (a Provencal pizza), a tian (a layered vegetable dish), and 2 pilafs (rice and spelt). And on the dessert side the author pleases with Pots de Crème, Crème Caramel, Crème Brulee, Raspberry Brioche Pudding, and Creamy Cherry Clafoutis.

The first recipe I tried is the Fallen Cheese Souffle. I've never made a souffle before, and was encouraged by the fact that failure of a sort is expected and actually built into the title. As with many of the recipes, there's quite a bit of prep work, involving stove top, microwave, stand mixer, and a few bowls. But the result was "strangely good" to quote my husband; I guess his second helping was more good than strange. My souffle actually did NOT fall. (So did it "fail"??) I opted for Parmigiano-Reggiano and found it a little sharp. (I'll use Gruyere next time.) But surprisingly, the texture was light and airy, and when paired with roasted asparagus, it made an unusually nice dinner. And the crock pot does NOT need to be cleaned afterwards; you just need a crock that can accomodate a 6-cup souffle dish, then use a 1-inch hot water bath.

I will update this review as I try more recipes.*

Finally, I'd like to comment on "why use a crock pot for so much work?" I can justify it with two good reasons. First, the oven is not always available, being taken up with other party fare, roasts, and what have you. Second - haven't you sometimes wanted a hot gourmet meal during the hottest part of the summer and can't bear a hot kitchen? This cook book might be challenging in some ways, but it's definitely the closest to "gourmet" my crock pot will ever get.

* More recipes I tried:

1/9/2012: Bacon and Gruyere Pain Perdu - "Pain Perdu" means "lost bread" but this recipe uses found French bread. The resulting dish is a savory sort of bread pudding, perfect for brunch or what we call "breakfast for dinner". Excellent, just don't let it cook beyond the 1.5-to-2 hours recommended, as the sides brown significantly even with a buttered crock. I served it with roasted asparagus (yes, again ... it's just SO good) and my husband raved over it more than the souffle I made earlier. This did not reheat well for us next day - the bread becomes too dominant. There is also a Mushroom Pain Perdu variation.

1/16/2012: Chicken with Tarragon, Mustard, and Cream - Disaster. I am willing to take the blame, but the recipe is pretty hard to screw up according to the directions. The sauce is watery and flavorless, the meat is boring. I even tried to thicken the sauce with arrowroot, but to no avail. IMO the directions should specify how much liquid from the crock to mix with the cream; my ratio may have been all wrong. Should have been served in a bowl. Not even worth a retry.

2/20/2012: Bittersweet Chocolate Creams - Outstanding!! Very much like pot de creme, or a mousse/ganache hybrid, but easier to make. And it does not even require a mixing bowl - everything but the vanilla goes right into a souffle-type bowl in a water bath. I used 1/3 cup sugar (instead of the suggested 2 Tablespoons) because I used a seriously dark chocolate Scharffen Berger Baking Bar, Semisweet Dark Chocolate (62% Cacao), 9.7-Ounce Packages (Pack of 2), and used a hand mixer to blend the eggs and sugar. This superb concoction will be repeated for company dinner soon.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2013
This book is a fine addition to my slow-cooker books. Its objective is to use lots of fresh ingredients in French-inspired recipes that are relatively simple and adapted for a slow cooker. Here are my experiences with the book thus far:

--on the whole, not a lot of "prep" work is required for most of the recipes; some call for browning the meat, others don't.
--lots of fresh ingredients are used, especially herbs, vegetables, and meat. Leeks and/or citrus peel are used in several recipes, both of which add subtlety and variety.
--many recipes call for 6- to 8-hour cooking periods, which makes them handy when I need to be out all day
--many recipes are for soups and stews, some of which are suitable for vegetarians, but there are also sections on seafood, souflés and quiches, vegetables and grains, and desserts
--the ingredients can be found in a well-stocked pantry; only a few recipes use a few less-common ingredients, and when they do, substitutions are suggested

--the recipes are all intended for a "large" slow cooker: 5.5 to 7 quarts. This means they are suitable for about 6 to 8 servings. My slow cooker has a 3.5-quart capacity, so I need to divide the recipes in half; even so, the liquid-solid ratio can vary, and this means it's necessary to try out recipes and test the cooking time too, since it's often shorter in a smaller cooker. I don't mind, but it would have been good to have some recipes for smaller slow cookers too.
--some of the lovely color photos are labelled, but some are not. If they're not beside the matching recipe, it can be confusing to identify to which recipe they belong.
--some of the suggestions for what to serve with dishes are good, but in other cases they are minimal or non-existent. There are no suggested wine pairings either, which seems odd since wine is so often served with meals in France.
--there are a lot of desserts and some dishes that I personally wouldn't make in a slow cooker. I would have been happier to see more soups, vegetables, and appetizers.
--no nutritional information is provided and no indication of which recipes freeze well. Although I understand that nutritional information varies considerably depending on the specific ingredients one uses, I still miss having some guidance in these areas.

The Recipes:
Chicken broth, beef broth, split pea soup, and potato-leek soup are some of the recipes I already know work very well. I've made them for years, but the versions in this book are interesting and have variations that I intend to try. The butternut squash soup is excellent, as are the Bargeman's Beef Stew and the Provençal Spinach Meatballs. These dishes have subtle, deep flavor and are very easy to prepare.

My Recommendation:
All in all, I would recommend this book highly. Even though my list of "cons" looks longer than the "pros," the ease of preparation, fresh ingredients, and French-inspired approach are the main points that make the book a winner to me. If your slow cooker is less than 5.5 quart-capacity, you do need to be prepared to adjust the recipes somewhat in addition to cutting them in half.

For anyone who wants to experiment with French-inspired cooking using fresh ingredients and the convenience of a slow cooker, this book is an excellent resource. I'm delighted to have it, and I love being reminded of similar meals I have enjoyed in bistros and neighborhood restaurants in France.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon December 10, 2011
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I basically liked this book, in that it provides good directions for making a number of French favorites in a slow cooker. The advantage of a slow cooking really comes out when there is slow simmering involved - say for a stew. Like other books, this one makes most sense for soups, stews, and various meat dishes where ingredients can be combined and cooked together over low heat and not require a lot of attention. I have tried a few recipes in this book (a lentil/sausage stew is an early favorite; a pot roast with red wine was another) and found them easy to follow. Reading through the book, it seems like most use easy to find ingredients and do not take a lot of prep time to get things ready for the slow cooker or followup once things are started. There may be some finishing up steps but nothing too time consuming.

The downside of this book is what I have seen in other slow cooker books - the inclusion of recipes where you really don't get much advantage in using a slow cooker. You can for example make a potato salad by cooking the potatoes in the slow cooker for 3 hours - why bother? The book says you can make souflees in the slow cooker, though they won't rise much -- again, why bother to prepare pretty much the same dish that you could make in a regular oven (and mostly like better) and with less time.

I would recommend this book for its variety of recipes and clarity of directions. Like most slow cooker books, the reader is going to have decide which recipes are most appealing and whether the slow cooker is best.
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