Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Recipe Rescue: January 2015

Patrick Mathieu   

Features Health and Wellness Nutrition

As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season winds down, it is time to reward ourselves with some much-need relaxation and recovery. Our frosty Canadian winters push us indoors, and there is no better place than the kitchen to start the relaxation process. Once you find a home for all the new gifts and put away the decorations for another year, it is time to dust off the classic, little kitchen appliance that was designed to prepare food with ease – the ol’ slow cooker.

The slow cooker as we know it was introduced as the Crock Pot in the 1970s, designed for busy, working moms as a way to prepare dinner in the morning before heading out for the day. When the family returned home after work or school, there was a delicious meal ready to go.

A slow cooker cooks its contents on a simmer. Raw or browned foods layered with a liquid in a slow cooker will simmer unattended over low temperatures for a long period of time. There are many amazing benefits of using slow cookers that explain why they are so popular.

  • Little to no culinary skill is required to produce a complex, flavoured dish. Simply layer the ingredients and allow the slow cooker to work its magic.
  • Using a slow cooker to prepare a meal takes minimal effort and time. The only hard part is waiting to taste your newest creation.
  • The cooking process happens unattended. The slow cooker gained popularity because busy, working families could create a great, home-cooked meal without spending all day in the kitchen, or even at home.
  • Since the slow cooker uses simmering as its cooking method, you can take cuts of meat that may be considered tough and turn them into melt-in-your-mouth, tender and delicious meals. These cuts often come with a smaller price tag as well, which means relief for your wallet.
  • Slow cookers were designed to prepare comfort food, which appeals to almost everyone. It does not matter if you are making a savory appetizer dip, a special Sunday stew, a classic pulled pork for the big game, or even a dessert, there is a slow-cooker recipe for every course.

At Relish, a cooking studio in Waterloo ( where I am a guest instructor, I am fortunate to work alongside one of the co-owners, Donna Marie Pye, who is affectionately known as the Crock Pot Queen.  You may own one of Pye’s five best-selling cookbooks on the mastery of slow cooking. I have learned many great tips and ideas by her side over the years; for instance:

  • Go easy on the liquid. Slow cookers have tightly fitting lids that do not allow any evaporation. The liquid should just barely cover the meat and vegetables.
  • Trim the fat. There is no need to add any oil to the dish; trim away excess fat from cuts of meat to avoid ugly pools of oil.
  • Thicken with flour. If you want a thicker sauce, try rolling meat in seasoned flour before adding it to the slow cooker, or use cornflower mixed with a little water to form a paste and add it at the end.
  • NO peeking. Slow cookers are designed to do their thing; there is no need to constantly check on the contents.

Whether you are part of a working family and find weeknight meals a chore, or with your fire department family away all day doing live-fire training or working a 24-hour Sunday shift, the slow cooker is designed for all occasions. There is something classic and comforting about slow-cooker meals. During a time of year when warmth and simplicity are needed in life and in the kitchen, put your food on low and slow and simply wait for the rewards.

Bananas Foster bread pudding



  • 5 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 8 ounces crushed pineapple
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 loaf French bread or banana bread, cubed

For the rum caramel sauce:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • Good quality vanilla bean ice cream


  1. Whisk eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Pour coconut milk and milk into a liquid measuring cup with the crushed pineapple juice. Whisk mixtures together. Add salt, nutmeg and pineapple. Fold in bread cubes; coat thoroughly. Pour into slow cooker. Cook on low for six hours until the bread is just set.
  2. For the rum caramel sauce, bring all ingredients, except rum and bananas, to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil for about one minute, then add rum and sliced bananas and cook for a few minutes longer.
  3. Serve warm bread pudding topped with the sauce and vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!



 Spicy red lentil and pumpkin chili


  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup dry red lentils
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 a medium onion)
  • 1 cup sliced portabella mushrooms
  • 1 cup winter squash, optional
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • For garnish: sour cream, shredded cheddar or Gruyère cheese, diced tomatoes,
    sliced green onions.
  • Crusty bread, optional


  1. Add all ingredients to a large slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low for eight to 10 hours until lentils
    are tender and chili is thick and hearty. Serve with assorted toppings, and some crusty
    • bread if desired. Enjoy!





Slow-cooker venison cassoulet


  • 4 pounds boneless venison roast, cut into 8 pieces and trimmed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 4 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
  • 3 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 cups dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 12 cups cooked small white beans, drained
  • 6 smoked chorizo or garlic sausage links, each halved
  • 1 garlic head, halved crosswise
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 baguette, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
  • Coarse sea salt


  1. Season the venison generously with kosher salt and pepper; set aside. Using the stovetop-safe insert of a slow cooker over medium-high heat, combine the canola oil and panko. Cook, stirring constantly, until the panko is toasted and golden, four to six minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and season.
  2. Add the bacon to the insert and cook until crisp on both sides. Drain on paper towels.
  3. In batches, brown the venison on all sides, seven to eight minutes total.
  4. Add the onions and one teaspoon of kosher salt to the insert and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and softened. Add wine and simmer until reduced by half, about eight minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes and broth. Remove the insert from the heat and add the beans, venison, chorizo and garlic.
  5. Place the insert on the slow-cooker base, cover and cook eight hours on low. Skim off the fat, if any, and remove and discard the garlic. Fold in the panko and the 1/4 cup parsley. Adjust the seasonings with kosher salt and pepper.
  6. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil and broil for a few minutes to lightly toast.
  7. Sprinkle each serving with the reserved bacon, sea salt and parsley. Enjoy!


Slow cooker ragu


  • 2 lbs of braising meats, I like a combination of pork shoulder and beef rump roast with the bone in, if possible
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch each dried rosemary and thyme
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • ½ bottle red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp pearl barley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • For serving, dried pappardelle, tube pasta or even polenta
  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Handfuls of grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish</bu>


  1. Season the meat liberally with salt and pepper. Layer your slow cooker as follows: meat, herbs, onions, garlic, carrot, and celery. Add red wine, tomatoes, and the pearl barley. Set slow cooker to low and cook eight to 10 hours. You’ll know the dish is done when you can pull the meat apart in tender strands. Season carefully with salt and pepper to taste and allow cooling slightly before removing the meat from the pot. Using two forks, pull apart all the meat, throwing away any bones. Skim any fat from the surface of the braising liquid. Put the meat back in the crock, cover and place over low heat until ready to serve.
  2. Cook your pasta or polenta as per package directions; once it’s cooked, drain it in a colander, saving some of the cooking liquid in case the sauce needs a little loosening. Remove the pot of stewed meat from the heat and stir in the butter and Parmesan with a little of the cooking water. This will make your sauce beautiful and shiny. Toss together with your pasta and serve immediately. If desired, serve sprinkled with a little finely chopped fresh rosemary and some more grated Parmesan. Enjoy!



Slow cooker jambalaya


  • 1 pound boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 pound smoked sausage, cut to 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1/2  (28-ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chicken stock
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 tsp parsley flakes
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • Couple dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup instant rice, uncooked
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp (16-20)
  • Green onion, sliced, for garnish
  • Parsley, chopped, for garnish


  1. Place the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker along with the sausage. Combine the tomatoes, broth, tomato paste and the seasonings in a small mixing bowl. Add diced vegetables, then top with the tomato mixture. Set your cook time for four hours on high. Add the instant rice with 30 minutes remaining. Make sure the rice is well mixed into the ingredients. Fold in the shrimp at this time as well.
  2. Once the slow cooker has finished, use forks and shred the chicken in the pot. Add the hot sauce and Worcestershire and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  3. Once the rice is done and the shrimp are cooked through, your dish is hot and ready. Garnish with parsley and green onion. Enjoy!


Patrick Mathieu is a 15-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue, where he is an acting captain. He has won several cooking competitions and has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities by auctioning gourmet dinners at the fire hall. Patrick will appear on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada on Feb. 14. Contact him at

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