The latest video in our “Back of the House with Ariane” series takes on the subject of veal. The great Barbara Lynch, a chef and restaurateur based in Boston, makes a traditional Italian dish of osso buco and Ariane takes the French path with paupiettes de veau.
Posts tagged ‘how to’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Indeed, stock is everything is cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.” –Escoffier
Forget about the cans and boxes of watered-down, flavorless stock in stores. The best stock is made at home and the good news is: it’s not difficult to do. You will be amply rewarded with glorious, golden liquid that will boost the flavor of sauces and serve as a base for soups. Professional chefs confess that they dip into a constantly bubbling stock pot when water is called for in a recipe.
When Brillat-Savarin said, “Soup is a healthy, light, nourishing food, good for all of humanity; it pleases the stomach, stimulates the appetite and prepares the digestion,” he was not referring to canned soup or low-sodium, thin broth. Bone broth rich with gelatin was the basis of soup in his day. And French studies on gelatin have found it to be useful in treatment of many diseases, and helpful to digestion.
Rich, homemade chicken stock has been called “Jewish penicillin” for its healing qualities. Bone stock has minerals that the body can absorb easily—important ones like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. Why pay for supplements like glucosamine chondroitin, which supports joint health, when you can get it naturally from bone stock?
How it’s done
Whether making chicken, fish or beef stock, the first thing you will need is a pile of bones. And the next is a stainless steel pot. The one we used is a 14-quart stock pot, but depending on how many bones you have, you can do this in a smaller (or larger) pot.
Waste not, want not. Start a bone collection; save all the bones, wing tips, backs, necks and gizzards from any poultry that you eat. Seal the bones in a bag and store in the freezer until you’ve collected enough and are ready to make the stock. No need to defrost them–frozen clumps can go right into the stock pot. And you can mix raw and roasted bones and bits together in the pot.
If you can get hold of chicken feet, throw them in–the collagen in them makes a gorgeous, gelatinous broth that jiggles when refrigerated. This is the holy grail of chicken stock.
We used a combination of a fresh, raw chicken carcass mixed with frozen chicken bones. Toss the carcass and bones into the pot with the onion, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Cover with water. The rule of thumb here is that meat, bones & water + heat & time = stock. All you need to do is fill the pot with as much water as possible and let time and heat do their thing.
Bring the whole thing to a boil, and skim the foamy scum off the top. Always skim! The effluvium that rises to the top can spoil the taste of the stock, and it looks pretty nasty, too. You can use a broad, flat spoon or a fine-mesh strainer to do this.
Then reduce the heat and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook it, the more concentrated and flavorful the stock will be. You can cook it for 10 hours if you like, or even 24. It will just continue to reduce and become more delicious. About 10 minutes before finishing, add the optional parsley (just throw it in whole), for added dimension and brightness.
Allow to cool a bit before attempting to remove the bones, chicken scraps and soft vegetables with a strainer or slotted spoon. Strain the stock into another pot or large bowl. Allow to cool and skim off the fat as it rises to the top. Be sure to save the fat. Chicken fat, aka schmaltz, is a valuable cooking medium, and a necessity in chopped chicken liver. Or leave the fat in the stock, and pour into quart or pint containers. Do not fill to the top, as the stock will expand when frozen. Store a quart in the refrigerator and put the rest in the freezer. When you chill it, the fat will separate and you can remove it then.
Use chicken stock in sauces, soups and sautéed vegetables. Add some to the water when cooking rice and pasta. You will soon find it an indispensable ingredient in the kitchen. Add salt and pepper when you cook with the stock, but never in the reducing process, or it will get too salty.
What You Need for Chicken Stock
1 whole free-range, organic chicken (or assorted bones)
2-4 chicken feet
1-2 onions, cut in half
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
2-3 bay leaves
Bunch of parsley (optional)
To some, the term “garden party” conjures images of a haughty affair – one where well-heeled, seersucker-clad guests meander through a topiary labyrinth or a gaggle of biddies nibble crustless sandwiches under a canopy of tea roses. Too stiff? Too stuffy? Not for you? Don’t give up on a garden party! It doesn’t have to be a stodgy soiree. A modern garden party is any convivial gathering, formal or casual, where guests enjoy food and drink in a garden setting. So throw out your assumptions, bend the rules and kick up your heels on your own patch of lawn for a modern day garden party that’s fun for all.
While often thought of as a prestigious event, today’s garden party doesn’t have to be stuffy, starched affair. Garden parties certainly didn’t start out that way. Rooted in 16th century Europe, garden parties were a way for fashionable families to receive guests at their weekend country estates without strict formality. Softly lit with lanterns at dusk, a country garden provided a lush, magical setting for an intimate dinner. Marie Antoinette famously fêted her closest companions at the Petit Trianon in this very way.
Even if your garden is less than palatial, you can riff off the Renaissance in your garden party setting. Whether your garden is a modest suburban backyard, cottage potager, rolling country hills, or a big-city rooftop, make the most of the outdoor setting by adding a few special touches. For example, bring the indoors out – a long communal table flanked by pillowed benches makes comfortable, casual seating while white linens and twinkling lanterns turn on the charm. Mixed china, unfussy flatware and footed glasses create inviting settings with sparkling tea lights and loosely arranged bouquets of your favorite flowers as festive accents.
Food & Drink
There are three ways to approach food for a garden party. You can serve an assortment of finger foods and hors d’oeuvre, have a sit-down coursed meal, or a combination of the two. Whichever you decide, the following loose guidelines will take some stress out of preparation.
The majority of food served should be able to be made (at least partially) ahead of time. A garden party is all about mingling, playing games and enjoying the outdoor scenery not slaving away at a hot range or standing over a smoky grill.
All dishes you choose should be able to be served just warm, at ambient temperature or chilled. This helps to ensure the laid-back feeling of a garden party. Guests can graze at will and this is especially helpful if you’re hosting a lot of people – the first guest’s food will be at correct eating temperature even after the last guest is served.
The current season should be taken into consideration when deciding what to serve. Since you’ll be outside, keep the climate in mind. You’d never serve a heavy meat braise in peak summer heat or a cold fruit soup in fall when the air is crisp. Highlight your garden’s seasonality with ingredients appropriate to the setting. For example, in spring feature early vegetables, mushrooms and spring meats like lamb or rabbit, in summer serve dishes starring sun-loving fruits like peaches, melon or berries and in the fall try slightly richer dishes made with cream or cheese, root vegetables and game meats. (Speaking of seasonality, if you grow your own vegetables, a garden party is a wonderful way to share your harvest with family and friends. You may even get some help weeding and watering out of it.)
If hosting a party and only serving small plates and finger foods, start with a few larger shared plates as your foundation such as a cheese plate, charcuterie tray or crudités. Lay out small bowls of shared snacks, like olives, black truffle popcorn or spiced nuts. Then build your menu out from there, adding as many dishes as you like based on number of guests. A good rule of thumb for small hors d’oeuvre is 6-8 pieces per person, per hour.
Your hors d’oeuvre should also vary by texture and taste so you’re sure to have something for everyone. Mix and match compatible dishes with different qualities like salty, crunchy, creamy, spiced, sweet, earthy, delicate and/or chilled. For example…
salty = Cheese Gougeres, Bacon Wrapped Figs, Caviar Blinis with Crème Fraiche
crunchy = Fava Bean Bruschetta, Crostini with Tapenade, Lotus Chips with Spicy Mayonnaise
creamy = Duck Rillettes with Prunes, Foie Gras Mousse, Brandade stuffed Piquillo Peppers
sweet = Summer Melon with Jambon de Bayonne, Baked Brie with Honey & Candied Walnuts
earthy = Mushroom Vol au Vents, White Truffle Robiola Flatbread, Wagyu Beef Negimaki
delicate = Vegetable Summer Rolls, Oysters with Mignonette, Potato Pancake with Gravlax & Dill
chilled = Summer Melon with Jambon de Bayonne, Chilled Mussels with Saffron Aioli, Venison Carpaccio with Baby Herb-Salad
Fun & Games
Garden parties can be fun! In the warmer months, offer old-fashioned lawn games like croquet or horseshoes. Or clear a spot for our favorite French game – Pétanque. Don’t forget your garden party playlist. Choose music that adds to the festive ambiance but doesn’t overwhelm your guests (or your neighbors!). Finally, take lots of photos. The relaxed, convivial garden party atmosphere allows guests to be themselves and loosen up for the camera.
Charcutepalooza, The Year of Meat. Who could imagine that a single cookbook would inspire a nation to preserve meat competitively for a year? If it’s Michael Ruhlman’s classic book “Charcuterie” and Cathy and Kim, then Charcutepalooza is the result. A year ago, they threw down a challenge to a few dozen fellow food bloggers. Make one charcuterie item per month for a year, and blog about the experience. They figured a few online friends would poke around in the kitchen and learn together. But their numbers grew to over 300 participants around the world. It seemed like everyone wanted to be in on the fun!
We were happy to support the meaty needs of the Charcutepalooza-ers with discounted pricing all year, and to serve on the judges’ panel. The author of the best blog post—it’s hard to taste charcuterie over the web!—would win a week in France, and the admiration of fellow charcutiers. Not to mention the happy side effect of eating lots of charcuterie all year. The stakes were high, the world of meat was watching.
And since we were not anxiously waiting for duck prosciutto to age on a deadline, it seemed like the Year of Meat flew past. Before we knew it, we were reading the final blog posts. They spoke of victory in the kitchen, education at the farmers market and the highs and lows that you encounter when cooking. While all the blog posts were impressive, educational and even moving (yes, curing meat can be emotional!), the ultimate triumph went to A Cook Blog by Peter Barrett.
We congratulate Peter on his creative, charming, knowledgeable and stunning post Gratitude is the Attitude which clinched the win. It left us breathless and hungry! His blog has always impressed us with its clever turns of phrase and ambitious recipes, and we look forward to reading more from his corner of the world. And we expect a full report from France on his blog later this year.
The humble Idaho spud gets a decadent upgrade when cut fresh and plunged into bubbly duck fat. The resulting frites are golden and crispy with tender, creamy interiors and a hint of delicious duckiness.
Obtain the Duck Fat
You might already have some rendered duck fat in your refrigerator or freezer from the last time you roasted a whole duck or seared duck breasts. You will need enough to completely cover the potatoes as they are cooking, about 2 or 3 inches in the bottom of a pot. If you don’t have enough rendered duck fat on hand, supplement with pre-rendered Duck Fat.
Prep Your Potato
The russet potato is the ideal frying potato. Peel the skin for a more refined frites, or scrub the skin well and leave on for a rustic fry. Cut potatoes into sticks between 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch wide. Rinse the cut potatoes in cold water to remove any excess starch. If you have the time, soaking them in ice water for 30 minutes will yield even better results. Drain the potatoes before frying and pat them dry.
Learn the Correct Frying Technique
The secret to the perfect French fry in any fat is the double-fry method. The first fry is to cook the potato through. The second fry at a higher temperature is to crisp them up. Melt the duck fat in a heavy-bottomed pot with high sides. Heat the fat to about 325 degrees F. A deep-frying/candy thermometer is really handy for getting an accurate reading. Cook the potato sticks in small batches to avoid dramatically dropping the temperature of the hot fat. After about 5 to 7 minutes, test the doneness by poking a fry with a knife. The knife should slide in and out with no resistance. If the potatoes are cooked through, remove them from the pot with a slotted spoon, spider skimmer, or tongs and let drain on a sheet tray covered in paper towels. After all of the batches are cooked and cooled, raise the heat under the pot and bring the melted duck fat to 350 degrees F. Return the fries to the pot, in batches again, for only about 1 minute. Drain on fresh paper towels. Sprinkle them right away with your choice of sea salt, black pepper, paprika, parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, or whatever seasonings you like. Doing this step while the fries are still hot will help the seasonings to stick.
Consider Dipping SaucesYour duck fat French fries will be perfect by themselves. However, you can take them one step further by serving with a dipping sauce. Try serving them with mayonnaise mixed with fresh herbs or take your frites over the top with a drizzle of truffle oil. When all else fails, ketchup is a trusty stand-by. Use your favorite store-bought brand or get adventurous and make your own out of roasted red peppers and roasted garlic.
Don’t Waste the Duck Fat!
After your fries are cooked, turn off the heat and let the duck fat cool so it is easy to handle but not solidified. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any pieces of potato. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and then freeze for a later use.