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Posts tagged ‘guinea hen’

Braising Essentials

Because we are offering 15% off our favorite cuts for braising this week, we thought it was the perfect time to share some tips for this technique.

Braising is comfort cooking at its finest, and it’s surprisingly easy. And while you may be inclined to keep the dishes all to yourself, braising is a great option for entertaining. With most of the hands-on work completed before the dish even goes into the oven there is ample time to spend with guests, and as the braise cooks it warms your home with an enticing, rich perfume. A larger batch is no more work, yet leaves enough for leftovers, no sharing required. Here are some of our braising basics.

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Equipment
There is really only one piece of special equipment needed for braising – the vessel. You should always use a high-quality, non-reactive, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. Your pot should be deep enough to hold all of your ingredients while allowing about two inches of space at the top for evaporation and condensation, or self-basting, as we like to call it. If in doubt, always go up a size. Some specialty pots have features that enhance this moisture up/moisture down process, like a cocotte which has small spikes on the underside of the lid allowing for continuous self-basting, or a doufeu, a pot with a recessed lid to which you add ice to speed up condensation. These features are nice but often come with a hefty price tag. For basic braising, we recommend a simple Dutch oven made from enameled cast iron as it conducts and holds heat evenly and can be used to both brown the meat stovetop, then finish braising in the oven for true one-pot cooking.

The long & short of it
There are two basic types of braising: short and long. Short braising, or cuisson à l’étuvée in French, is great for vegetables, small birds and lean, tender poultry such as chicken or rabbit. It’s a fast process by which you quickly brown the ingredients in fat then add a flavorful liquid and barely simmer until just cooked through. The entire process is finished in less than an hour. Long braising or, braisage, uses similar techniques but achieves something different entirely. Tough cuts of meat such as short ribs, shoulders, shanks and briskets are browned in fat, then liquid and aromatics are added and the dish is cooked at very low temperature, staying below a simmer, for a long period of time. Cooking meat slow and low breaks down the sinewy connective tissue, first into collagen, then melting into gelatin. The cooking liquid reduces to become the accompanying rich and complex sauce.

Browning Basics
When browning meat for braising, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, never skip this step as browning the meat is an essential part of the braising process and your dish will lack flavor without it. Lean or tender cuts should be patted dry for a more intense browning effect. Fatty cuts should be dusted with flour pre-searing to develop a nice crust that will help to hold juices in. Heat your oil (duck fat works beautifully!) over high flame until quite hot then add your meat. Get the meat evenly brown and crusty on all sides. Be mindful not to crowd the pan, working in batches if necessary.

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Get Saucy!
The fork-tender meat may get top billing in braised dishes but the rich, luscious sauce is just as important. This long gentle method of cooking does most of the sauce work for you. There are some subtle tweaks you can make at the end of cooking to adjust the final product and really make your dish shine. If your sauce is thinner than you’d like, simply move some of the liquid to a small saucepan and reduce over medium-high heat. When thickened, add back into the pot. If your sauce is too thick, add some hot broth or wine and simmer. If you were over-generous with your seasoning, add a peeled potato or two during cooking. The starch will absorb a bit of the salt. Discard them before serving. Not enough flavor? Add freshly chopped herbs, citrus zest or spices at the very end of cooking and offer a bit at the table for garnish. Not enough body? At the end of cooking, shave in a small amount of bitter chocolate! It’s a professional kitchen secret that few chefs will reveal. A light hand will yield spectacular results. If your dish is too fatty, simply chill the whole pot in the refrigerator overnight. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it easy to discard. The extra time allows the flavors to marry and concentrate too. If you’re short on time, you can also let it rest for a half hour then skim the top with a shallow spoon.

Quick Tips

When reheating, remove the meat from the thickened sauce and bring it to a low boil then toss the meat back in just to heat through.

Braised dishes freeze beautifully – make a big pot, freeze individual portions in airtight containers and enjoy on a cold, rainy day.

Braised meats also make fantastic leftovers. Try adding to tacos or burritos, shepherd’s pie, pasta, sandwiches or salads.

A Saucy Series, Part III: Sauce Chasseur

Welcome to guest blogger Deana Sidney of Lost Past Remembered, a blog dedicated to discovering, replicating and adapting historic recipes. In this saucy series she demystifies one of the cornerstones of classic French cuisine: the mother sauces.

Sauce Chasseur

When the Kennedys came into the White House the quality of the food served there went from 0 to 60.  Instead of cooks and caterers Jacqueline Kennedy hired French Chef René Verdon. As you might imagine, he played an important role in bringing French cuisine to America.

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JFK and Chef Rene Verdon.

One of the most famous dinners of the administration was held in 1961. Instead of serving a state dinner at the White House, an elegant tent was erected at Mount Vernon and the meal was an enormous success.

There was avocado and crabmeat mimosa, a wonderful rice dish and raspberries with crème Chantilly.  The main course was Poulet Chasseur.

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A view of Mount Vernon from the beautiful tent.

As part of my sauce series, Sauce Chasseur is made with French tomato sauce, one of the mother sauces of the 19th century that differs from Italian sauce in that it has flour and stock in the mix and is slow cooked with a ham knuckle or trotter.  This addition gives the Sauce Tomate a velvety texture that is perfect for the elegant dish.  I decided to use guinea hen instead of chicken for a deeper flavor.  If you’ve never tried it, guinea hen is a great bird… sort of a cross between chicken and pheasant.  I think when you try it you’ll see why everyone wanted a seat at the Kennedy table.  The food and the company were superb.

Escoffier Sauce Chasseur

6 medium mushrooms
2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 t minced shallots
1 c white wine
2 oz brandy
½ c tomato sauce*
1 c demi-glace
1 T meat glaze (Boil 1/2 c stock till reduced to a thick glaze – pay attention to it – it goes from glaze to burn quickly at the end; a non-stick pan is perfect for doing this.)

Peel and mince the mushrooms, heat ½ oz butter and olive oil.  Fry mushrooms till slightly browned.  Add t of minced shallots and remove half the butter.  Pour 1 c white wine and 1 glass of brandy; reduce by half and finish with tomato sauce, 1 c demi-glace and 1 T meat glaze boil 5 minutes or until it is thickened slightly. Strain and reserve. You will have 1 cup of sauce.

*Tomato sauce

1 large can tomato puree (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes)
1 strip bacon, chopped
small piece ham knuckle or trotter with bone or piece of ham with bone – about the size of a child’s fist
3 T carrot, chopped small
3 T onion, chopped small
bouquet garni
small clove of garlic
1 T butter (the bacon will give up about 1 T of fat, add more butter to make 2 T fat)
2 T flour
1  t salt
1 t sugar
pinch pepper
1 c stock

Cook bacon in butter, sprinkle with flour, add tomatoes and veg and ham and stock.  Boil and cook over low heat for 2 – 3 hours, stirring frequently (it will scorch a little). Take out bouquet and ham and strain, pressing on the solids. Whisk till smooth.

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Escoffier’s Guinea Hen Chasseur 

The guinea hen will serve 2 – 4, a chicken will serve 4 – 6

guinea hen or a 3-1/2 lb chicken cut into serving pieces (breasts without bone, legs, thighs and wings –reserve back and breast bone for stock) or 4 breast or 8 thigh pieces
salt and pepper
1 T butter
1T olive oil
¼ c white wine
1 T cognac
1 c chasseur sauce
8 sliced mushrooms ( I used shitakes and chanterelles)
chopped parsley (tarragon and chervil are nice too but optional)

Salt and pepper the meat and brown it well in equal quantities of butter and oil. Cook at medium heat until cooked through.  Cook the breast meat less than the rest of the meat. Place on a dish and cover.  Sauté the mushrooms in the remaining fat.

Pour out the fat. Swirl the saucepan with white wine and cognac and reduce.  Put the chicken back in the pan and toss with mushrooms, pour chasseur sauce over the meat and sprinkle with herbs.

Couronne de Riz Clamart

Based on recipe from Kennedy’s social secretary Letitia Baldrige, 6 servings

2 tsp butter
1/2 cup each finely chopped red and green pepper
 (I used 1 poblano pepper)
3 cups cooked long grain white (or brown) rice
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
 (I think 1/2 c is better)
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 plum tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped (I used about 8 un-peeled cherry tomatoes since they have flavor at this time of year)
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1 cup baby peas

In skillet, melt half the butter over medium-high heat. Add peppers, cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Reserve.

In bowl, gently stir together rice, eggs, Parmesan cheese, chicken stock and parsley.

Stir in peppers, tomato, salt and pepper.

Spoon rice mixture into generously buttered 1 quart round tube mold or Bundt pan, packing down gently with spoon (I used a copper mold and put ramkins in the center since I wanted a taller shape!)

Bake in 350 degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let stand for 2 minutes.

Invert over serving platter over top of mold and turn out rice mixture.

Toss peas with remaining butter, spoon into center of rice ring.