Archived entries for braising

Why yes, I have spent some time in the South, recently. Why do you ask?: Dr. Pepper Roast Pork

To what will probably be the extreme delight of at least one part of my family, I’ve found myself plagued of late by rumbling suspicions that I am living on the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line. It started when the neverending agony of the Snowtorious B. I. G. actually succeeded in breaking my soul; matters escalated when I went to Texas in January. Things didn’t get really dire until a couple weeks ago, however, when I had the colossal good fortune to find myself in New Orleans, shaking a tailfeather in the Muses parade with some of the most amazing, pink, sparkly ladies anyone has ever been lucky enough to meet.

I very nearly decided not to come back.

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Now, whether that’s a result of my aforementioned broken soul and its inestimable greed for sunshine, or the actual delights of the region remains to be seen. But the fact remains: I had the pants Southern Charmed right off of me, enough to seriously consider whether I could hack it down there for a spell. Fortunately for my fellow Yankees (*ahem*), the north has a few charms of her own, so odds are that I will not be making any sudden moves. I will, however, be pulling out this recipe for Dr. Pepper pork the next time I start to feel the pangs.

When asked, many of the Southerners I know swear that the official beverage of the region is iced tea; for me, it’s always been Dr. Pepper. Perhaps it’s a Texas thing, I don’t know (it could just as easily be related to my vicious hatred of tea), but there’s something about an ice cold DP on a blisteringly hot day that always makes me think of hard sun and soft accents. What I DO know is that DP does something absolutely amazing to braised pork–as the whole business bubbles away in the oven, the insane sweetness of the soda seems to mellow into something rounder and more complex, and the resulting sauce becomes the sort of thing that actually inspires people to cross a room to learn the source of the intoxicating smell (oh yes). I personally prefer making it with a loin roast, but a shoulder works equally well–just remember to degrease the pan as best you can before reducing the sauce.

It may not be a trip to the magnolia-scented shores of points south (sorry, family!), but in a long dark winter, it’ll do in a pinch.

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Easy Entertaining: Pappardelle with Duck Ragu

I’ve said it before; entertaining on a weeknight requires advance planning. While some dishes can be thrown together last minute, you need a least a few minutes for that. And my mission this Friday was woefully short on minutes for last-minute prep. In fact, I didn’t really have a minute all week.

I started a new job, and within a day found myself clumsily attempting to man the site’s main queue while my new coworkers traveled to Austin, California, Seattle, Chicago, Madison, and other places. (Yes, they went to ALL of those places this week. It’s madness in the name of a looming book deadline.) It was a trial by fire for me, which is likely the best way to learn (and to figure out what I need to learn), but then all of a sudden it was Friday and my husband Matt’s birthday and there was a dinner party to be thrown.

Enter the freezer. You can make this umami-rich duck ragu the weekend before (or even earlier than that) and pop it in the freezer till the morning of the party. Defrost the sauce, boil some pasta, throw together a quick salad, and dinner for eight is served, your title as Kitchen Master retained.

I kept my crown. This dish is a winner, savory with slow-cooked duck and earthy mushrooms, and quite a bit of wine. I must apologize: the recipe below is a little loose, but it’s more or less what I did. Be sure to salt the final dish, it needs it. The secret ingredient is a package of frozen porcini I found at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market. I wasn’t sure how good they’d be, but chopped finely enough, they add a serious hit of flavor. Dried porcini simply do not compare.

This is a perfect dish to serve with Pinot Noir—the duck and the mushrooms bring out the delicate earthy qualities of the wine, and the wine cuts the richness of the sauce. We savored a wedding-gift bottle from Patricia Green Cellars—magic.

Looking for other make-ahead dishes for weeknight entertaining?

Try this lamb and duck cassoulet or these port-braised lamb shanks.

My mom’s chili is another great choice, as is this Moroccan chickpea stew.

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Chicken in Riesling

When everything is in balance, our evenings rotate between quiet home-cooked meals for two, raucous dinner parties, and nights of overeating on the town. Usually, there is time for the farmer’s market, for the wine shop, and for making sure we don’t run out of napkins.

But our schedules have been nutty and there have been nights and nights of takeout containers and entire weekends of eating out. I’m not complaining—on Matt’s parents’ recent visit, we hit quite a few neighborhood highlights, from Banjara for lamb rogan josh and spicy chaat to Motorino for swoonworthy cremini and smoky scamorza pizza. Nothing to complain about. But when we came up for air at the end of the weekend, all I wanted was something simple.

This dish hit the spot—chicken from a local farm, braised in riesling till tender and juicy, full of real chickeny flavor. It’s light but luxurious, enriched with homemade chicken stock, fruity wine, fragrant leeks, and silken crème fraiche. Sweet carrots and parsnips may be the only vegetables in season now, but they’re all you really want in this dish. If you buy your chicken already cut up, the recipe is a breeze—spend your time tracking down good poultry and flavorful dairy (I love everything from Ronnybrook Farms.)

I forgot the squeeze of lemon when I first served this, but I recommend remembering—it adds just a hint of brightness and enhances the flavors without turning everything lemony.

We oohed and ahhed, and nearly licked the sauce from the plate—be sure to serve this with something to sop it up.

Looking for more March recipes? There will be a roundup soon at Gourmet, Unbound.

More chicken dishes from P&C:
Asian Marmalade Chicken
Chicken in Milk
Chili and Honey Chicken
Walk Away Roast Chicken

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Citrus Salad with Slow-Cooked Pork Belly and Balsamic Onions

I probably don’t have to tell you that pork belly is all the rage. It shows up on menus these days as frequently as a hamburger does, more often than the now-abandoned molten chocolate cake. It’s as if we’ve all just realized where our beloved bacon comes from and found out that we could justify eating it as our entire meal. Score!

It seems like every cookbook I have has a recipe or six for The Belly, so when I saw that my favorite butcher had some in his case, I snagged it. (And for cheap.)

It’s a project that takes two days but doesn’t actually require any skill. The pork belly cures all day (or overnight) in a mixture of sugar and salt with a few spices, and then braises in aromatic broth until super tender. I called upon my trusty slow cooker for this job, though you could also cook it in a 275 degree oven for seven hours or so. Then you chill the pork belly in its braising liquid until you’re ready to use it—in pork buns or over grits or like this, crisped and served as a luscious topping for a tangy onion-and-citrus salad.

By soaking the onions in a balsamic vinaigrette while you prepare the salad, you’re basically quick-pickling them, as well as infusing the dressing with onion flavor. Toss with some greens and citrus segments, and you’ve got the perfect foil for the rich pork belly.

It’s a decadent, elegant meal, fancy enough for a trendy restaurant, but if you eat it in your sweatpants while sitting in front of the television I won’t blame you.

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A surprising success: Cabbage braised with cream

Hey, eagle eye–if you were really paying attention to the pictures I posted with the Asian-style pork roast, you might have noticed the mysterious pile of greens lurking off to the side. Oh, sure. It looked nondescript enough, wearing its muted green jacket and just hanging out quietly, innocently.

cabbage

That is EXACTLY what it wants you to think.

In truth, that humble pile of greens is my new dynamo for the upcoming cold weather–a quick, easy, delicious way to toss a few vitamins in with your dinner: cabbage braised with cream. The dish was inspired by Orangette’s recipe of the same stripe (from her book, A Homemade Life), though hers is almost certainly far more sophisticated than mine–the sort of dish you could bring to a black-tie event. Mine is more along the lines of an evening at a beer garden, but that troubles me not. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s delicious. It would probably go well with bacon. It doesn’t need to be sophisticated.

The trick is, like any braise worth its salt: slow and low. You’re not so much cooking the cabbage as melting it, and if you get the time and temperature right, you won’t really need much in the way of butter or cream–the inherent silkiness of the cabbage will render them far less necessary than you’d think. So, really, it’s all rather deceptively delicious.

Since I didn’t add bacon to this version, I DID spice it up with a little nutmeg (I seem to favor my cruciferous veg in this guise)–you can take this or leave it. I highly recommend adding a twist of your own–go on, it can take it.

Cabbage braised with cream

1 head savoy cabbage, stemmed and finely sliced
1 onion, finely sliced
1/4c cream
a bit of butter
a bit of salt
a bit of nutmeg

  1. In a dutch oven (or somesuch other large pan), melt butter over medium-low heat.
  2. Add the onions and saute slowly until they are translucent and melty
  3. Add the cabbage. Saute a few minutes more. Season with salt.
  4. Add the cream. Reduce heat to low. Cover.
  5. Leave it there, stirring occasionally, until everything is soft and harmonious–between 25 and 45 minutes, depending on the size of your cabbage.
  6. Finish with some nutmeg, if so desired.


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