braised chicken with a lot of garlic

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I’ve made this recipe twice now. It’s really, really good, even if you use a lot less than the traditional 40 cloves of garlic, but when I make it it seems to come out very rich and salty, causing me to wake up at 2am with a certain digestive regret. Maybe if I went easier on the salt and did a better job of defatting the sauce. Or maybe just eat less of it. I dunno, did I mention it’s really, really good?

Braised Chicken with Forty Cloves a Lot  of Garlic
adapted from Use Real Butter, who adapted it from Fine Cooking

4 lbs. chicken, whole or pieces (whole thighs are nice)
kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp olive oil
a dozen or so cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chicken broth
baguette for serving

Pat the chicken dry, season (both inside and out if whole chicken) with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper, then sprinkle paprika over it. Squeeze the lemon juice into a vessel and reserve. If preparing a whole chicken, place the used lemon half in the cavity. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, place the chicken breast-side or meaty-side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Flip the chicken and brown another 2-3 minutes. Remove to a plate and drain off the oil in the pot (but keep the brown bits!). Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add the garlic cloves and the wine, stirring the bottom of the pot to deglaze the fond. Place the chicken in the pot on top of the garlic, with the breast-side or meaty-side up. Add the herbs and broth. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot and set the heat to low.

Braise 45 minutes to an hour, basting every 20 minutes, until done.  Move the chicken to a plate. Defat the sauce as much as possible, bring the drippings to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer, mashing the garlic into the gravy. Season the gravy with salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Serve with the chicken (carved or as pieces) and toasted slices of baguette.

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a less thrilling braise

first frost

Happy November! I’ve decided not to do NaBloPoMo this year, but I do intend to try posting a little more often. I have enough other writing/photography projects going on that I’m not feeling up to the post-a-day commitment, but we’ll see how it goes.

dinner

We’re trying to work more new recipes into our menu planning, after what seems like  several months of making old standby-type stuff. We’re experimenting with pulling out a cookbook at random, then opening it and pointing to something. This is quite dangerous, as it can lead to strange meals of onion sauce or rice pudding, so we’re keeping it flexible. Last week I pulled out Falling Cloudberries, a book that I was wildly excited about when it came out but have never actually cooked from. I chose a promising Cypriot recipe for pork marinated in red wine and braised with coriander seed. It was, I’m sorry to say, kind of meh.

marinating

coriander

pork braise

There was nothing wrong with the pork – a roast of well marbled meat from our last pig (which is nearly gone, except for several pounds of pork belly), which I whacked up and put in a bowl with two cups of red wine the night before. I had some issues with the cooking instructions, which optimistically say to sear all of the pork in a casserole until golden. Well, first, it’s soaked in red wine, and even if you dry it off first it’s not going to sear at all unless you do only a few pieces at a time in a very hot pan. Second, it’s soaked in red wine and is dark purple, and is not going to turn “golden” no matter what you do to it at this point.

I knew what she meant, though, so I fried the pork, added in the marinade, some garlic, bay leaves and five teaspoons of lightly crushed coriander seed, cooked it until the meat started falling apart, and served it with roasted pink fingerling potatoes and some lightly wilted arugula. It was…okay. The pork flavor was overwhelmed by the wine, and the coriander was incredibly strong and acrid, not to mention kind of a weird texture. The potatoes (which turned out fantastically) and greens helped to balance, but I didn’t really like it all that much.

leftovers with an egg

The leftover pork was improved by chopping it up finely with the rest of the potatoes and cooking it up as hash with some sweet onion, then serving with an egg on top. That wasn’t bad at all.

Anyone else made this recipe, or anything else out of that book? I want to give it another chance but not sure what to try.

lamb with prunes

dinner

Another dinner inspired by my culinary hero David Tanis and his book Heart of the Artichoke. In the past I haven’t much gone for prunes in savory dishes (I was traumatized by a pork-prune empanada at an impressionable age), but since David was pushing it I finally decided it was time to give it another try. This lamb shank tagine converted us, completely.

lamb shanks

We still had all four shanks from the lamb we bought from Martiny Suffolks last summer, and I wanted to be sure we ate them while the weather was still good for braising. My biggest error in the past with lamb shank has been not cooking it long enough, so I started early in the day to make sure it reached the fall-off-the-bone stage. The dish starts (as most tagines do) with onion cooked in butter, then adds garlic, fresh ginger, powdered ginger, coriander seed, cumin seed, saffron, and rather a lot of cayenne. Lamb shanks, prunes and sultanas nestle into the flavorings with a topping of chicken broth and tomato puree, then braise gently in the oven for over two hours. A final handful of prunes go in near the end, before taking the lid off the pot and simmering it at higher heat for a few minutes.

tagine

The house smelled incredible. The tagine was both savory and sweet, with a cayenne kick that was never quite too much. The lamb collapsed with a mere touch of a knife. The prunes melted into the gravy, giving it an incredible silken mouthfeel. To go with it, I cooked couscous with chicken broth, sauteed chard and spinach, and made a platter of borani: pan-fried eggplant slices topped with yogurt-garlic sauce. We licked our plates.

braising a bunny

dinner

I really don’t know why Americans don’t eat rabbit. There’s definitely a factor of “oh, it’s too CUTE to eat” which is part of why we don’t eat much lamb as a nation, either. But it’s really hard to find rabbit in grocery stores – we asked once at our usual market and I think they could special order it frozen for us if we gave them enough notice, and it cost an arm and a leg. Weird.

So when a friend of ours, a local farmer, asked if we wanted to take one of the rabbits she’s been shooting to keep them out of her vegetables, we said Definitely. Even before we received the rabbit, I started looking through my British and Mediterranean cookbooks for possible recipes. We haven’t had much experience cooking wild game of any sort, so I wanted to get a feel for the most common treatments. Rabbit isn’t a strongly gamey meat, but it’s still liable to be stronger-tasting than, say, a farm-raised chicken, and the meat is very dense and low in fat, so it requires some care in preparation.

rabbit

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belly of the pig

pork belly

When we ordered our first (half) pig, we debated getting some of it cured by the butcher. In the end, partly because I am cheap frugal, we decided to get it all fresh, hams and side and all. I had been thinking we would cure some ourselves, but I’m beginning to suspect we’ll have eaten it all by the time I get serious about it. Oh, well, there’s always another pig.

But in the meantime, we have these nice big roasts of side pork, otherwise known as pork belly, the cut that is usually made into bacon. We’ve eaten it in restaurants a number of times, but this would be my first time cooking it. I decided to play it safe and make red-cooked pork belly, a classic Chinese preparation.

We’ve tried to get fresh pork belly before, at a local meat shop, but to my dismay they had already sliced it like bacon, even though it wasn’t cured. This time things worked out better, as you can see in the top picture. Isn’t that a beautiful piece of meat?

braising liquid

For my braising liquid, I used a combination of Molly Stevens’ recipe and our own “glazed gingery ribs” recipe. I combined chicken stock, water, brown sugar, red chile flakes, star anise, ginger, scallions and soy sauce in a Dutch oven and brought it to a simmer.

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all-day braised lamb

holiday lights

After the usual holiday diet of chocolate, too much coffee and a lot of salami and cheese, it’s always a good idea to have something solid in mind for dinner. I can hardly imagine a more perfect dish for Christmas day than long-braised leg of lamb. Get it going after breakfast, peek at it occasionally throughout the day, pull it out in time for dinner. The only downside is that it takes up oven space that you might want for, say, baking pie, but the braise can easily be moved to the stovetop (which is what we ended up doing).

veg

The lamb braises in a wine-tomato-stock mixture, but then you get to fill in the space around it with whatever veg you like. The original recipe recommends turnips, onions and carrots; we left out the onions and threw in parsnip and fennel. The long, slow braising makes the vegetables incredibly tender while still retaining their shape, so they can be scooped out of the broth and served alongside the meat.

braising lamb

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spicy red sauce

tomato-pepper-chipotle sauce

Here’s a lovely sauce to make you feel like it’s summer again, even though it may be more than a little snowy outside. Oven-roasted tomatoes and peppers, pureed with chipotles and spices, then simmered with onion until thick, make for a spicy rich sauce redolent of the flavors of late summer. Using the sauce to braise country-style pork ribs makes for some fabulous winter tacos.

country style pork ribs

We’ve just started to get into the half pig we bought recently. The chops we started with were fantastic, pan-seared and coated with a cider reduction. More recently I tried braising some blade steaks in a sauce of vinegar, mustard and beer, which was eye-rollingly good but one of the ugliest plates I’ve ever produced (the braised green cabbage on the side didn’t help matters). These ribs came somewhere in between, and while I didn’t get any pictures of the shredded pork tacos, trust me that they were extremely successful as well. However, don’t feel that you need to use this sauce with pork – it would be great used for enchiladas, or on eggs, or stirred into a pot of beans, or anywhere that could use a shot of spicy tomato goodness.

roasted tomatoes and peppers

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the well-braised lamb shank

lamb shanks

When you have a really high-quality ingredient, there’s always the risk of not using it to its full potential, or ruining it. Like accidentally burning a panful of hand-gathered wild mushrooms, or insufficiently brining, then overcooking, that free-range organic turkey you ordered specially for Thanksgiving. Or even just making something really boring with a fabulous piece of filet mignon. It’s depressing. So when I got the two shanks out from the half lamb we bought last spring, I felt some pressure to do them up right. After all, there are only two – I couldn’t start over if I messed them up!

braised lamb shank

Thank God for Molly Stevens. I (loosely) followed her recipe for Braised Lamb Shanks Provençal, and as usual with her recipes, it came out delicious. The meat fell off the bone into the unctuous, lemony sauce, and we muddled it all up on our plates with soft buttery polenta and sauteed spinach. These lamb shanks could not have asked for a better fate. Continue reading

braised rhubarb with herbs and saffron

rhubarb

At this point in the season, the rhubarb plants have peaked, attempted to bloom their heads off (and been thwarted by my Felcos), and are beginning to settle back into merely being a large green presence in the yard without actually attempting to overrun or squash anything. We’ve had rhubarb crisp, clafoutis, pie, compote, and muffins, and stowed away a large freezer bag of chopped stalks for later.

fresh rhubarb

Despite all that, I’m nowhere near rhubarb burnout, and there are several recipes left that I want to try – for instance, I’ve still never roasted rhubarb. Or poached it in red wine. I have, however, braised it with green herbs, onion, tomato and saffron. Sound weird? It’s actually really, really good.

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