●Set the timer for six or eight or 10 hours.
Her fish chowder is more complicated. There’s a third step, sauteing an onion, and another calls that for adding half-and-half during the last hour of cooking.
But if she were writing the recipe today, says Good, who with her husband, Merle, owns Good Books Publishing based in Intercourse, Pa., “I’d add the fish at the end.” Good’s “Fix it and Forget It” series of slow-cooker books has sold more than 11 million copies.
Fish in the slow cooker seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Fillets cook quickly — albeit with a narrow window between done and dry, especially when they are baked. The most common reaction to my recent kitchen experiments has been: What’s the point?
In our house, fish is often an afterthought. My fussy teenage daughter won’t eat the stuff, but my partner, Dan, doesn’t eat terrestrials. So if the menu I’m preparing for my kid has meat, he’ll coat a hunk of fish with packaged breading and slap it in a frying pan a few minutes before dinnertime, leaving a crusty surface and a lingering odor.
In the meantime, I’ve fallen hard for my slow cooker. Around Christmas, wooed partly by the surge of special recipes that kept wandering into my inbox and by the beautiful cookbooks displayed at tony kitchen stores, I gave away the old white model that had been moldering in the basement and treated my kitchen to a new stainless-steel slow cooker.
Preparing meals just seemed too easy. A chicken thrown into the pot before I head out for the day is fall-off-the-bone succulent several hours later; lamb stew simmers all day. I even made a lasagna that emerged with its layers intact. The cooker uses little energy and doesn’t require anyone to stand over it. I was so enchanted, I wanted to share the love with Dan.
My first attempt at slow-cooker fish was alarmingly successful: a drizzle of oil in the ceramic insert, some coarsely chopped shallots and smashed garlic, a hunk of farm-raised salmon. I squeezed lemon juice over the fish and set the cooker to low. An hour later, a creamy, kind-of-poached salmon emerged. With a smattering of chopped fresh dill, it was dinner.
A similar preparation appears in “The New Slow Cooker,” Brigit Binn’s book for Williams-Sonoma. She sets her salmon in a tarragon-and-white-wine-based broth that has already heated for 30 minutes. Yet the results are the same: “The texture is amazing,” she says. The low-and-slow method of cooking fish, she adds, “kind of approaches sous vide.”
Since the publication of Binn’s cookbook in 2010, one of her most frequent reader inquiries has been about fish. (She says another is, “Does it matter which crockpot I have?”)
Today’s slow cookers are more sophisticated than their forebears, with removable inserts for easy cleaning and serving, plus digital timers that shift to “warm” when the cook period ends. Some even boast of stove-top-safe inner receptacles, for browning meat or sauteing an onion in the same pot. (Such savers of dirty pans, alas, are not recommended, as the awkwardly shaped inserts don’t do the job a good old fry pan can do.)