Seafood goes swimmingly in slow cooker


Main dish

Slow-Cooker Salmon With Shallot and Green Beans

This method is akin to poaching fish in the flavorful liquid of a court bouillon: The moist environment produces salmon that is mild-tasting, non-oily and softly flaky. Precooking the braising liquid pays off, creating a complex broth that subtly perfumes the fish. You’ll need a 5- or 6-quart slow-cooker.

1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth

1 cup dry white wine

1/2 small onion, thinly sliced

3 sprigs tarragon, plus 1 teaspoon minced tarragon leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

6 (5-ounce) skin-on salmon fillets

1 pound haricots verts (thin French green beans), trimmed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

2 teaspoons tarragon vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

Combine 1/2 cup water, broth, wine, onion, tarragon sprigs and salt in the slow cooker. Season with pepper to taste. Stir, cover and cook on low for 30 minutes.

Add the salmon fillets; it’s OK if they overlap. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour or until the fish is opaque and tender.

While the salmon is cooking, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the haricots verts and cook for about 4 minutes, until crisp-tender. Immediately pour into a colander in the sink and rinse under cool running water. Spread on a clean towel to dry.

When the fish is done, use a thin, slotted spatula to carefully transfer it to a platter, discarding the skin. Cover loosely to keep warm. Discard the braising liquid and tarragon sprigs.

Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and stir to coat; cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the haricots verts and stir to coat and warm through. Stir in the vinegar and minced tarragon.

Scatter the dressed haricots verts and shallot over and around the salmon fillets. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Source: Adapted from “The New Slow Cooker: Comfort Classics Reinvented” by Brigit Binns (Williams-Sonoma, 2010).

Per serving: 230 calories, 30 g protein, 6 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 80 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 1 g sugar.


Olive-Oil-Braised Tuna With Orange-Olive Tapenade

You’ll need a 3-quart slow cooker for this recipe. The tapenade can be made up to a week ahead.

1/4 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth or fish stock

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the spinach

1/4 cup dry white or rose wine

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

6 dried bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

Freshly ground pepper

12 ounces fresh center-cut tuna, cut into thick steaks

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Grated zest of 1 orange

5 ounces pitted, mild green olives, such as Picholine or Lucques (about 3/4 cup)

5 ounces pitted, brine-cured black olives, such as Nicoise (about 3/4 cup)

1 teaspoon red or white wine vinegar

5 to 6 ounces fresh baby spinach

Combine the broth, 4 tablespoons of the oil, the wine, onion, bay leaves and salt in the slow cooker; season with pepper to taste. Stir, then cover and cook on low for 30 minutes. Set the tuna out to come to room temperature.

Add the tuna to the slow cooker, turning to coat the pieces evenly. Cover and cook on low for 15 minutes. Use a spatula to turn over the steaks. Cover and cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, until opaque and firm. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the fish to a cutting board or large plate, and use two forks to separate the pieces into large flakes. Cover loosely to keep warm. Discard the braising liquid.

While the fish is cooking, combine the garlic, orange zest, olives, vinegar and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a food processor. Pulse to form a thick puree.

When ready to serve, toss the spinach in a mixing bowl with a little oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among individual plates, creating a bed for the tuna. Distribute the fish evenly among the portions. Top with tapenade, using half of it (save the rest for another use). Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 appetizer servings.

Source: Adapted from “The New Slow Cooker: Comfort Classics Reinvented” by Brigit Binns (Williams-Sonoma, 2010).

Per serving: 110 calories, 14 g protein, 3 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 25 mg cholesterol, 330 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 0 sugar.


Slow-Cooker Garlicky Shrimp

The gentle heat of the slow cooker is terrific for producing shrimp that are not overcooked. The poaching oil gets a 30-minute head start to develop flavor. For easy, hands-on eating, leave the tails on the shrimp. You’ll need a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker. Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (pimenton; may substitute sweet paprika)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 pounds extra-large (26-30 count) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Combine the oil, garlic, paprika, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes in the slow cooker, stirring until blended. Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes.

Stir in the shrimp to coat evenly; cover and cook on high for about 10 minutes. Stir to ensure the shrimp are cooking evenly, recover and cook 10 more minutes, until all of the shrimp are just opaque.

Transfer the shrimp and some of the sauce to a wide, shallow serving dish. Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve warm. Makes 8 appetizer servings.

Source: Adapted from “The Slow Cooker Revolution, Volume 2: The Easy Prep Edition” by America’s Test Kitchen (to be published in September).

Per serving: 210 calories, 23 g protein, 2 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 170 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 0 fiber, 0 sugar.

Main dish

Thai-Inspired Slow-Cooker Tilapia

You’ll need a 5 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker.

1 large (about 1 pound) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

6 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil

1 cup raw jasmine rice or Thai red rice

14 ounces no-salt-added stewed tomatoes

1 cup reduced-fat coconut milk

3 to 4 teaspoons Thai red curry paste

1 pound tilapia fillets

6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, rolled and cut crosswise into thin ribbons

Combine the sweet potato and garlic in a baking dish. Microwave on high for 8 minutes; the sweet potato should be slightly softened. (This step allows it to finish in the slow cooker when the rice is done.)

Combine the oil and rice in the slow cooker, stirring to coat. Add the parcooked sweet potato and garlic, stewed tomatoes and enough water to barely cover (about 1 1/2 cups). Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Jasmine rice cooks quicker than the red rice.) The rice and potato should be tender, and the liquid should be absorbed.

Gently stir in the coconut milk and curry paste. Cover and cook on high for 10 to 20 minutes. Uncover and gently add the fish, pressing to submerge in the rice mixture. Cover and cook on high 15 to 20 minutes; the fish should be opaque and flake easily.

Use a slotted thin spatula to transfer the fish, along with some of the rice mixture, to individual plates. Garnish with the basil. Or stir to form a thick stew and spoon it into individual bowls. Garnish each portion with basil. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 510 calories, 29 g protein, 69 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, 310 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 11 g sugar.

Washington Post Service

Fish in the slow cooker seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Fillets cook quickly, with a narrow window between done and dry. What’s the point?

But my first attempt at slow-cooker fish was a hit: a drizzle of oil in the ceramic insert, some coarsely chopped shallots and smashed garlic, a hunk of fresh 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 heated for 30 minutes. “The texture is amazing,” she says. The low-and-slow method of cooking fish, she adds, “kind of approaches sous vide.”

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. Technique has evolved, as well.

“You can’t just dump and go,” says Julia Collin Davison, executive food editor at America’s Test Kitchen, which publishes Cook’s Illustrated and a raft of cookbooks. A multi-step, hands-on approach is what most slow-cooker fish recipes call for.

“To me, slow cookers were a gimmicky appliance,” Davison says. But after working on both Slow Cooker Revolution (2011) and Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2: The Easy-Prep Edition, coming out in September, she has changed her mind: “With the right recipe, you can produce a well-crafted meal.”

Davison says she had an “aha” moment while experimenting with fish: “Not only is it incredibly easy in the slow cooker, but it’s good.”

For one thing, she points out, “there’s more of a window to catch the fish at the correct doneness.” And further, slowly bringing up the temperature of a protein retains moisture, so the result is more delicate. “In the end, it has a silky texture and is tender and moist.”

Davison gave me an early look at a recipe for garlicky shrimp that appears in the forthcoming Volume 2. “You start by poaching garlic in oil and pepper for 30 minutes,” so flavors are infused, she says. Then the shrimp is added to cook on high for another 20 minutes.

Back in my own kitchen, slow-cooker mussels were a bust — the shells opened, but their innards were still glossy wet. My third experiment was more successful. I started with red Thai rice and cubes of sweet potato. In went stewed tomatoes, plenty of garlic and enough water to cover.

Once the rice was nearly cooked and the sweet potatoes became fork-tender, I added coconut milk and Thai curry paste. When it had heated through, I carefully submerged four tilapia fillets in the stew. It took about 20 minutes for the fish to reach an opaque flakiness.

The tilapia was difficult to remove intact, so the dish became a kind of Thai curry hash, which I finished with ribbons of fresh basil. That, of course, affirmed another truth about slow-cooker food: Professionally styled cookbook images — and newspaper photos — notwithstanding, don’t expect it to be pretty.

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