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Showing posts with label braising. Show all posts
Showing posts with label braising. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Lot of Veggies + A Little Protein Makes For a Massively Delicious Hearty Meal

I love meat. A big steak. Fried chicken. A rack of ribs. But I also love veggies. Carrots. Onions. Cabbage. Mushrooms. English peas. Spinach. Broccoli. Asparagus. When I want to prepare an easy-to-make meal, I turn to vegetables to help me out. Full of flavor, vegetables cook quickly and get a meal on the table without too much effort.

For today I'm going light on the meat and heavy on the vegetables and aromatics. The portion for each person (pictured below) uses only one chicken leg or thigh and one pork sausage. That small amount of animal protein will add a large amount of flavor that will grab on to the vegetable flavors and bundle them into umami deliciousness.
Vegetables You Love and one Chicken Leg (or Thigh) and one Sausage Per Person 

Sautéing the vegetables, chicken and sausage in seasoned olive oil adds flavor by caramelizing the outside. That lovely browning also removes some of the water, concentrating flavors.

The dish cries out for a starch. Since the recipe will create a sauce, serve the ragout with dumplings, steamed rice (brown or white), pasta or large croutons.
Use any vegetables you love. In many dishes, cutting vegetables into a small dice adds to the flavor but that makes the vegetables disappear. To create a hearty dish, cut the veggies into large pieces.

Pork sausage is best because the fats add more flavor than other sausages. For those who want to avoid pork, the sausage is certainly optional.

Skin on the chicken adds flavor.

The dish can be prepared ahead, even the day before and reheated.
Use cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, English peas, spinach, celery, corn kernels, quartered Brussel sprouts, green beans, slow roasted tomatoes finely chopped or any other vegetables you enjoy. The vegetables should have a crisp quality, so avoid over cooking. Leafy vegetables will cook more quickly, so delay adding them until the end or, if reheating, add those just before serving.

Only use green cabbage. Red cabbage will discolor the broth. Savoy cabbage has more delicate leaves and more flavor than does green cabbage.

Time to prepare: 20 minutes

Time to cook: 40 minutes

Total time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

4 large chicken legs or thighs, skin on, washed, pat dried

4 Italian pork sausages, washed, pat dried, cut into 1" rounds

1 large yellow onion, root and stem ends, outer two layers removed, washed, pat dried

4 large carrots, washed, root and stem ends, outer skin removed

2 cups green cabbage, preferably Savoy

3 cups mushrooms, preferably Shiitake, cleaned, pat dried, end of stems and dirt removed, thinly sliced

1 bunch spinach, washed to remove grit, drained, stems removed from leaves and finely chopped

1 clove garlic, washed, skin removed, finely minced (optional)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pinch cayenne (optional)

Directions

If using large cabbage leaves, separate the delicate part of the leaves from the thick rib. Finely chop the rib into small bits. The delicate leaves and the finely chopped ribs will be cooked at different times.
Heat olive oil in large pot. Season with a dusting of sea salt, black pepper and cayenne (optional). Add chicken legs or thighs. Remove when lightly browned on both sides.

Add sausage rounds. Brown as with the chicken and remove.

Sauté onions, finely chopped spinach stems, finely chopped cabbage ribs and mushrooms until softened. Add browned chicken parts. Cover with water. Cover pot and simmer 30 minutes or until chicken is tender. Check every ten minutes and add water if needed to keep covered.

Add browned sausage rounds,  spinach leaves, cabbage leaves, carrot rounds, garlic (optional) and any other similar vegetables, like Italian parsley, broccoli or celery. Add water to cover if needed. Cover pot and simmer 10 minutes.

Add English peas if using in the last 2 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. If broth needs more concentrating, return the pot to high heat and reduce liquid until flavorful.

Serve hot with dumplings, steamed rice (brown or white), pasta or large croutons.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Vegan Happiness

A few years ago my wife read the funny and subversive vegan anthem, Skinny Bitch. Overnight she became a pescaterian. Gone were the chicken wings and steak bones she used to gnaw on with great pleasure. Gone too were the sausages, bacon and ribs that were part of her diet. Overnight I lost my culinary-companion.

Since I'm a stay-home-writer (except when I'm traveling), I cook most of our meals. That means cooking twice. One meal for me (brown sugar ribs, grilled sausage, braised beef, Moroccan preserved lemon chicken) and another for Michelle (tofu with sautéed spinach and shiitake mushrooms, spring vegetable soup, grilled vegetable chopped salad).

Her change in diet caused me to change the way I cooked. Not having animal products to thicken sauces and add layers of flavor hobbled my cooking. Then I discovered three beautifully easy-to-prepare flavor enhancers that are inexpensive and totally vegan. Also, they do not use any oil.

Reduced Balsamic Syrup

When balsamic vinegar is heated over a low flame, water evaporates, leaving behind a dark, flavorful liquid. Amazingly, the vinegar's lip-smacking tartness is transformed into sweetness that retains a touch of acid. The thickened, reduced vinegar tastes very much like expensive, aged balsamic vinegar that sells for as much as $40.00 a pint. 
Use the least expensive balsamic vinegar available. The restaurant supply company, Smart & Final, sells a gallon of Italian balsamic vinegar for $20.00. That one gallon yields a quart of reduced balsamic which in turn will last months.

To make the reduction, use the ratio of 4:1. Four parts of vinegar will yield one part of the reduced liquid. 1 cup of vinegar will produce 1/4 cup of syrup, which will make enough salad dressing for four meals.

The key to the reduction is low heat. Overheating creates a harsh flavor. Allow only a few, occasional small bubbles to appear on the surface of the liquid. As the balsamic reduces, lower the flame.

I reduce a gallon at a time to create 4 eight ounce squeeze bottles. That amount lasts us months. To reduce that much liquid using a low flame can take six to eight hours.

You can make a smaller amount in a few minutes. Just keep in mind the ratio of 4:1 and a low flame.

Onion Jam

All vegetables give off their water when exposed to heat. Cooked over a low flame, thin sliced onions give off a milky liquid that adds to their sweet caramelization. Traditionally onions are sautéed in olive oil to prepare them for soups and stews. To avoid using olive oil simply use a low flame and stir continuously to prevent the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

The onion jam can be refrigerated in airtight containers for a week or frozen for a month. Used as a base to make pasta sauces, soups or braises, the onions add a depth of flavor and sweetness.

In the Basque region of Spain, where pintxos, open faced sandwiches, are popular, room temperature onion jam is spread on grilled bread as the base for imaginative toppings that include charred red and green peppers, fresh wild arugula and quick fried thin strands of green cabbage.

Serves 8
Ingredients

2 pounds yellow onions, washed, ends and skin removed
Sea salt and ground pepper

Directions

Thinly slice the onions the long way, from stem to root. Heat a large pot over a low flame. Add the onions. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. Because the onions render slowly, it is helpful to have other things to do in the kitchen. As the onions cook, they give off their liquid. Stir the onions around in the liquid to coat.
In time, the onions will turn golden brown. The longer you cook them, the darker they will get. I like them light brown although some people enjoy the jam when the onions take on a rich, dark brown color. Taste and decide which you like.

Remove from the heat. Let cool and use or refrigerate.

Tomato Essence

Delicious any time of their season, ripe tomatoes are one of nature's wonders. Eaten fresh from the garden, few vegetables can compare with the rich flavor of a summer ripened tomato. For a cook wanting to avoid using oils and for anyone who wants to steer clear of commercially processed food, tomatoes are a great blessing.

With very little effort, roasted tomatoes give up a delicious liquid that can be used as the basis for a salad dressing, soups, pasta sauce and braised dishes.
The technique is the essence of simplicity: turn on the oven, put in the tomatoes, come back in an hour, they're ready to use. To create tomato essence, use a wire mesh strainer or, better yet, a food mill which will separate the solids from the liquids.

It's that easy.
Serves 8

Ingredients

4 pounds ripe, farmers market tomatoes, washed, stems removed

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Place the whole tomatoes on a baking sheet lined with nonstick parchment or a Silpat sheet (available in most supermarkets and specialty stores like Sur Le Table or William Sonoma).

Bake one hour or until the tomatoes begin to sag.  Remove and let cool.
There are two liquids available at this point. A clear, light liquid, perfect to make a salad dressing and a thicker liquid with pulp that is a delicious basis for soups, pasta sauces and braised dishes.

To create the first lighter liquid, place the tomatoes in the strainer or food mill over a non-reactive bowl and gently press down. That will release the clear or lighter liquid. Remove, cover and refrigerate.

Place the bowl back under the strainer or food mill and vigorously press the tomatoes until all the liquid and pulp have passed through leaving only the skin and seeds behind.

Remove, cover and refrigerate.

Tomato Essence Salad Dressing
Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup first pressing tomato essence
1 tablespoon reduced balsamic syrup
Sea salt and black pepper

Directions

Substitute the tomato essence for olive oil and mix well with reduced balsamic syrup. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Asian Noodles Take a Trip to Italy

My wife is out town. I'm home alone and hungry. Since I work at the house, my routine is to write during the day and have dinner with my wife when she gets home from her office. Cooking our dinner gives shape to my day, since I plan the meal in the morning and do the prep when I'm taking breaks during the day.

Having dinner together is a fun part of the day. Over a meal with a salad, main course and a couple of side dishes, we have time to catch up.

Now I have to contemplate dinner for one and that's not as much fun.
Staring at the open refrigerator, considering what left-overs I could eat or what bits and pieces I could put together to make a meal (a farmers market Fuji apple with slices of comte cheese and bacon from breakfast), a different approach occurred to me.

Having grown up eating instant ramen, a cup of noodles is always the way to go when hunger strikes. But I'm a bit hesitant to go that route because of the high salt content and the predominance of chemical additives in the soup base. Happily, shopping at Asian markets, it's easy to see that ramen is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to easy-to-make noodles.
Even in mainstream supermarkets, if you look in the Asian foods section, you'll find packages of dried egg and rice noodles. Go to an Asian market and the selection will border on the comic with aisle after aisle of fresh and dried noodles. Costing two or three dollars, one package of Asian noodles will easily feed 4-6 people.
If you want, you can certainly prepare the noodles with Asian sauces and ingredients. Personally, I like to combine the noodles with braised meat or poultry and vegetables from our local farmers market. The result is a deliciously comforting Asian-Italian fusion.

I like the dish so much, when my wife comes home, I'll make a bowl for her.

Asian Noodles, Italian Style

Use raw meat and poultry or leftovers from another meal. For stock, home made is preferable to avoid the excessive amounts of sodium in canned versions. The dish can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and poultry. Other vegetables can be added or substituted for the ones I used and, if you like heat, dust the braise with cayenne or a scattering of pepper flakes.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 pounds uncooked deboned chicken, pork shoulder or top sirloin, washed, pat dried and thin sliced or use 1 1/2 pounds cooked chicken, pork or beef
1 medium yellow onion, washed, ends removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, root ends removed, finely chopped
6 shiitake mushrooms, washed, stems trimmed to remove dirt, thin sliced
2 carrots, washed, ends removed, peeled, cut into rounds
2 cups broccoli crowns, washed, sliced into florets
4 cups kale leaves, washed, stems removed or spinach leaves, washed, roughly chopped
2 cups stock, chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian, preferably home made
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1 pound of Asian noodles
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sweet butter (optional)

Directions

Heat a large pot with water. Bring to a boil. Unlike Italian pasta, Asian noodles do not require adding salt or oil to the water. Wait to add the noodles until the braise is finished because the drained noodles will congeal quickly.

In a large saucepan or chefs pan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and shiitake mushrooms and sauté until lightly browned.  If using uncooked chicken or meat, add now and cook until lightly browned.

Add the broccoli and kale and sauté until wilted. If using cooked chicken or meat, add along with the carrots and stock. Simmer 10 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt, pepper and (optional) the sweet butter. Reduce liquid to half by cooking another 5 minutes. Lower the flame.

Add the noodles to the boiling water and stir well using tongs or chop sticks to separate the noodles. Read directions for cooking time. Before draining, taste a noodle and confirm doneness. Drain.

Add the noodles to the braise and toss well to coat with the sauce.

Serve hot in bowls with chop sticks or on plates with forks and large spoons.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Vegetable Soup Beats Back the Cold

Fall's brilliantly colored leaves are nature's consolation prize. Summer's warmth becomes a fond memory as the air cools and days grow shorter. Then when we "fall back," gaining an hour--another consolation prize--we're faced with ever encroaching darkness.
Fall is accompanied by a sense of loss and regret as we move inexorably towards winter. For cooks, however, this moment of sad transition is a happy time because we open our cookbooks and pull out recipes for roasts, braised meats, baked squash, and, of course, soups.

For Zesterdaily I posted a vegetarian soup to warm you when the sun disappears at 4:30PM and you feel that chill in the air.