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Marlene

Cooking with "All About Braising" by Molly Stevens (Part 1)

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One question I have is what does everyone here use for a braising vessel? I have been using the same 7 quart Le Crueset french oven forever when making stew, etc. and I really don't want to go out and buy their shallower braising pan.

Also my wife bought a Cuisinart slow cooker for me for Christmas, would it be sacrilege to use it instead of the preferred stovetop/oven method?

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I really don't see what the parchment did for me. *ducking from thrown stones*

I also find it interesting that cookbooks continue to have you marinade in a bowl or other container rather than in a zipper type of plastic bag with the air expelled so you don't have to worry about all of the meat being exposed to the marinade.

This experience does not mean that I am abandoning the recipes in this book. They are still terrific. I am just going to be more judicious and thoughtful about the more "fiddly" techniques.

I'm not throwing stones. I've only used one of the recipes in the book so far, and while it was a delicious success, I can't tell you what good the parchment paper did. The lid to my Le Creuset pot seems heavy enough and fit closely enough that I didn't really understand how the parchment actually benefitted me or the pork shoulder I was braising. I've braised for years, however, I am new to Le Creuset AND to Molly Stevens, so I bow to the experience of others.

As far as the cut of beef roast to choose, I often choose a rump roast, mostly because it's what my mother always cooked. I like sirloin tip, also, but my husband prefers the rump roast.

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Um, here in Ontario, I have never ever seen a pot roast or any other package of meat labeled chuck.  They just don't do it that way.  We got inside round, blade, shoulder, etc, but I've never seen any label say Chuck.

Check out this site: Beef Cuts in Canada to see what used to be called chuck. (Common Beef Cut Names).

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One question I have is what does everyone here use for a braising vessel? I have been using the same 7 quart Le Crueset french oven forever when making stew, etc. and I really don't want to go out and buy their shallower braising pan.

Also my wife bought a Cuisinart slow cooker for me for Christmas, would it be sacrilege to use it instead of the preferred stovetop/oven method?

You are in good shape, my dear, for braising just about anything. Try out both the slow cooker as well as the LC. I think you will find that the results in both will be very satisfying. It is just a matter of timing. I tend to default to the slow cooker when I just want to turn it on and go shopping.

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I did the 5 spice ribs tonight. I'll have pictures tomorrow, but first a few observations.

The recipe calls for covering the pan tightly with tin foil. Next time, I'll use a pan with a lid. I had to braise the ribs every 30 minutes, and after a while, the tin foil cover no longer fit so tightly. I'd braise them a little longer next time.

I'd also add more glaze when broiling them. And when I did the rub, I'd add some cayannne and garlic, the rub was just overall to sweet.

My guests loved them, but I wasnt' as thrilled as I might have been with this particular recipe.

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pictures. Starting with the rub:

gallery_6080_825_40370.jpg

After the rub has sat for 24 hours, braise them in ale and molasses, and then brush a glaze of honey, soy sauce and ketchup on them and broil:

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Cut into pieces:

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Served with baked potatoes, and a tomato, bleu cheese and onion salad

gallery_6080_825_53762.jpg

followed by molten lava cake

gallery_6080_825_51400.jpg

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OK . . . First disappointment. I did the "Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Rosemary and Porcini" by the book. Actually, the final result is no disappointment. The flavor is wonderful. The disappointment is in the method. After all of the fiddliness of the method, I don't find any difference from what I have done for years with beef short ribs . . .  brown, dump in the pot with the wine and seasonings and braise. No parchment, no overnight in a pre-cooked marinade, and certainly not at 325 degrees F. I checked on the pot after 30 minutes and was so alarmed at what was going on at 325, I immediately reduced the temperature to my usual braising temperature of 250. I think that is what saved the final result. Compared to other beef short rib braises I have done in the same pot (LC oval oven), I really don't see what the parchment did for me. *ducking from thrown stones*

I also find it interesting that cookbooks continue to have you marinade in a bowl or other container rather than in a zipper type of plastic bag with the air expelled so you don't have to worry about all of the meat being exposed to the marinade.

This experience does not mean that I am abandoning the recipes in this book. They are still terrific. I am just going to be more judicious and thoughtful about the more "fiddly" techniques.

Fifi, several thoughts:

I have found her temps consistently too high, except for the shorter braises (like the salmon). For me, too, given the shcedules of my kids and their comings and goings, lower and longer is better.

So, do you have access to two similar sized LC's? (I don't). Try one with the parchment, one without. You are science oriented, do a test for us! The last time I used the parchment, I followed Paula's instructions (wetted and crumpled, not over-hanging under the lid). I will continue to use the parchment because I have 1,000 sheets of the stuff (a gift).

I don't marinade in a bowl. Always a ziplock. It's easier to stuff it into my overcrowded fridge.

Yes, you are right. The recipes are wonderful. The advice on meats and the various cuts and the stuff on other ingredients is wonderful. Some of it is just flat ditzy, and I circumvent and make it easier whenever possible.

Marlene, thanks for the notes on the ribs. I will dutifully pencil then onto the recipe. That's one of the things I do. When someone on this site posts info/comments/recommendations on a recipe in a book I have, I make the notes. I loved marked up cookbooks.

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There are some interesting observations here that I hope will, at some point in time, make their way to Molly's kitchen experts for future editions/revisions.

I have braised in the same LC pots I've owned for over 30 years, they are both quite deep (two round, one oval) and I have had fabulous results regardless of the "head space" in the vessel. I plan on trying the parchment cover (just over the food, NOT extending beyond the vessel; I just don't see the point to that) for my next braise, and my thought is that the only benefit will be that it will eliminate the need to scrape the sides down in the pot. I stand to be corrected, but please allow me the time to test my theory...

Also mentioned by others is the oven temp. I too have found it necessary to reduce the temp (from what is suggested) to maintain a gentle simmer. Mind you, I've always braised at lower temperatures so that didn't really surprise me. I have found this same problem with many other recipes, particularly in recipes from "celebrity" kitchens... Could it be that while they are scaling the recipe ingredients for home use they are forgetting to factor in home "hardware" in all its capacities?

While these aren't major issues for many of us - we can easily adjust recipes to our needs, environment and equipment - they could present a real problem to those who are more intimidated in the kitchen ... and all marketing aside, that could turn a best seller with longevity into a clearance item.

Just rambling...

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I have to agree with the others here on temperature. I've consistently had to lower the temp usually by 50 degrees from what Molly states in her book.

Having said that, the book is a tremendous source of information on braising, and with the exception of the ribs I did last night, I've been pretty pleased with her recipes.

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Okay, I found myself a nice little chuck eye roast today, and am looking forward to cooking it up tomorrow. But, I have a question.

My roast is a little smaller, at just over 2 pounds. Should I still plan to braise for about 3 hours? Not sure if size is a factor here or not.

thx,

Pam

I would have answered this, but I honestly don't know the answer! Instinct says less time, but I'm no expert at braising yet!

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I'm about to start the maple-glazed short ribs recipe, and I have a tip for all you short-rib fans out there. For some reason, AAB doesn't mention it, but the best way to brown short ribs isn't in the pot or under the broiler: it's roasting them. Put them bone-side down (or just lay them flat if they're flanken-style) on a broiler pan or just on some foil on a half-sheet pan (the pan has to have a rim) and roast them at 450 for about 45 minutes. No smoke; you can prep the rest of the recipe while they're browning; and if you're doing a reasonably sized batch, it takes about the same amount of time. You do have to clean another pan, but compared to having to clean the entire kitchen after browning them on the stove, big deal.

I learned this tip from Cook's Illustrated and have never browned short ribs any other way since.

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...I also find it interesting that cookbooks continue to have you marinade in a bowl or other container rather than in a zipper type of plastic bag with the air expelled so you don't have to worry about all of the meat being exposed to the marinade.

This experience does not mean that I am abandoning the recipes in this book. They are still terrific. I am just going to be more judicious and thoughtful about the more "fiddly" techniques.

Since when has any of us followed recipes to the letter anyway? Adapating is what makes it fun, no? :wink:

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I will be trying the parchment with a recipe that I do often. And I do think Paula's method makes more sense so I will do it that way. I don't have two pots the same size to do a real side by side. I could possibly borrow the 2 1/2 quart oval that I gave my sister for Christmas but she won't let it out of her sight. Anyway, this particular recipe is so predictable that I think I will notice a difference.

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Today we had Molly's "Top Blade Steaks Smothered in Mushrooms and Onions" and it is a definite keeper. I was very concerned that there simply was not enough liquid (the recipe calls for only 1/2 cup of sherry which pretty much reduced to nothing as I deglazed). But, in the end there was plenty of sauce and the meat was meltingly tender. I actually used cross-rib steak as I didn't have top blade but I treated it exactly the same as in the recipe. I cut off the strip of three small bones and tossed it in the pan to add whatever flavour might be there. I also only had white button mushrooms so I am sure with the cremini and the portobellos it would be even better.

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I'm about to start the maple-glazed short ribs recipe, and I have a tip for all you short-rib fans out there. For some reason, AAB doesn't mention it, but the best way to brown short ribs isn't in the pot or under the broiler: it's roasting them. Put them bone-side down (or just lay them flat if they're flanken-style) on a broiler pan or just on some foil on a half-sheet pan (the pan has to have a rim) and roast them at 450 for about 45 minutes. No smoke; you can prep the rest of the recipe while they're browning; and if you're doing a reasonably sized batch, it takes about the same amount of time. You do have to clean another pan, but compared to having to clean the entire kitchen after browning them on the stove, big deal.

I learned this tip from Cook's Illustrated and have never browned short ribs any other way since.

Yeah, this is definitely one of CI's greatest tips ever. I do this everytime now too-- so much cleaner and easier.

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I'm about to start the maple-glazed short ribs recipe, and I have a tip for all you short-rib fans out there. For some reason, AAB doesn't mention it, but the best way to brown short ribs isn't in the pot or under the broiler: it's roasting them. Put them bone-side down (or just lay them flat if they're flanken-style) on a broiler pan or just on some foil on a half-sheet pan (the pan has to have a rim) and roast them at 450 for about 45 minutes. No smoke; you can prep the rest of the recipe while they're browning; and if you're doing a reasonably sized batch, it takes about the same amount of time. You do have to clean another pan, but compared to having to clean the entire kitchen after browning them on the stove, big deal.

I learned this tip from Cook's Illustrated and have never browned short ribs any other way since.

Yeah, this is definitely one of CI's greatest tips ever. I do this everytime now too-- so much cleaner and easier.

Now you guys tell me. Next time, oven it is.

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I did the short ribs with rosemary/maple/horseradish glaze this past weekend. Next time I'll use a stronger beer, but otherwise they were excellent. Of course, I am the short rib king. :wink:

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Tonight was the Beef Rendang.

I made the spice paste in my mortar and pestal, and cooked it in oil. I remembered to grab the camera just after I'd added the beef, cinnamon, cardamom and star anise.

gallery_6263_35_162657.jpg

Then I added the coconut milk and brought it to a gentle simmer. This was at 2:00 pm.

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At about 4:15, I got worried. Although it had been gently simmering, it sure didn't seem to be reducing like I thought it would. Since I had a meeting tonight, I needed to have dinner on the table not much after 6:00 pm, so I dumped the works into a skillet. The oil has started to separate, just like Molly said it would. I added the lime leaves (from my own little tree) at this point.

gallery_6263_35_640285.jpg

Then, I made a quick trip to school to pick up Peter.

When I got home, this stuff had reduced considerably. I quit taking pictures to get Heidi off the bus and hear about the kids days.

I started the rice cooker and cut up some broccoli and minced some garlic, and turned the meat again.

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Rice done, broccoli stir fried, and everything into bowls. This is what the skillet looked like with most of the beef in the serving bowl.

gallery_6263_35_1144031.jpg.

Peter plated up and took this picture

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This was an absolutely wonderful dish. Everyone loved it (except Heidi, but I knew she wouldn't!). Paul and Diana wished that there had been more sauce, but admitted that they wished I'd made a saucier broccoli (they like some juice on their rice). This dry braise is very rich, and very deep with a lot of complex flavors. Wonderful for a family dinner, a dinner party or a pot luck. I didn't have the kind of dried peppers she recommended, so I used the small Thai dried peppers. I used 5 of them, but next time I will up it to 7 or 8 of them -- the coconut milk really does tame them, but there was still an ever-so-subtle heat. I did use fresh galagal, but dried tumeric. Although the cubes fry in oil, there is still quite a bit of the coconut milk sediment, so these cubes don't get as crispy as carnitas.

This one will have a fairly regular rotation on the menu. They would be good in the summer, and I can see making this one with chicken thighs, as well.

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This one looks really good, snowangel. It's definitely going on the short list of things to try soon. Thanks for posting the pics and your process.

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This one looks really good, snowangel. It's definitely going on the short list of things to try soon. Thanks for posting the pics and your process.

Patti, I did find pounding the paste better than using the food processor (I started in the latter and moved to the former). Also, the lemon grass. I ended up using 4 pieces because by the time I removed the tough leaves and got to that tender center, there wasn't much of it. In lieu of the mortar and pestal, I spice grinder or microplaning some of this stuff might be a good idea. Also, fresh galangal is really fibrous, I can't think of a reason not to used dried.

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That looks darn close to what I think my long sought Thai Carnitas should look like. I suppose I never expected that they would get as crisp as carnitas. I think we have a winner. Now that I have used my mortar and pestle a bit more, I am inclined to agree with you on the superiority of the method. Besides, all of that pounding is very therapeutic. :biggrin: Though, I am not sure that the folks in the downstairs apartment will agree. :raz:

Please don't give up on the fresh galangal if you are lucky enough to find it. I think it is much superior to the dried even though dried is ok if that is all you can get. I don't even bother with the powdered. What I have started doing with fibrous stuff like ginger, galagal and lemon grass is slicing it thin across the fibers before pounding it. I also do a fine chiffonade of the lime leaves before pounding it that is called for in the recipe.

I am definitely going to do this. I am toying with the idea of trying it with pork since you have done all of the excellent work on the beef.

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This one looks really good, snowangel. It's definitely going on the short list of things to try soon. Thanks for posting the pics and your process.

Patti, I did find pounding the paste better than using the food processor (I started in the latter and moved to the former). Also, the lemon grass. I ended up using 4 pieces because by the time I removed the tough leaves and got to that tender center, there wasn't much of it. In lieu of the mortar and pestal, I spice grinder or microplaning some of this stuff might be a good idea. Also, fresh galangal is really fibrous, I can't think of a reason not to used dried.

When using fresh galangal, as well as older ginger, etc., a ginger grater is best.

Working the cut face of the galangal back and forth over the teeth of the grater extracts a non-fibrous paste and juice.

Most of the little graters are too small and difficult to hold on to and I have a rather large glass one that I found quite a few years ago. However I have found that a suribachi works quite well also, particularly the coarser ones.

I then use a bamboo "brush" to get all the goodness out of the grater or the suribachi.

When I get home this evening I will take a photo of the glass one so you can see what it looks like and keep an eye out for one.

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I've been busy packing and haven't really cooked anything for several days. However, Molly's book is the only cookbook I haven't packed away, and I'm feeling a yen to braise. Until now, everything (except the ribs) I've done has been beef (no real surprise there to those who know me). So it's time to branch out.

I'm eyeing the pork chops and creamy cabbage braise for tomorrow night. This appears to be a stovetop braise, and although I'm no lover of cooked cabbage, I'm thinking the pork chops sound delcious.

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That salmon with the pinot and bacon was delish. As was the pork with mango, lime and coconut (OK, so I know your family doesn't like coconut, but I don't think they'll know it's there unless you tell). And, that chicken with prunes (fish them out if they have some sort of emotional allergy to prunes) and olives was also absolutely outstanding. What about the fricasee of chicken? Or the milk braised pork (easiest thing I've done in ages, and again, absolutely wonderful).

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That salmon with the pinot and bacon was delish.  As was the pork with mango, lime and coconut (OK, so I know your family doesn't like coconut, but I don't think they'll know it's there unless you tell).  And, that chicken with prunes (fish them out if they have some sort of emotional allergy to prunes) and olives was also absolutely outstanding.  What about the fricasee of chicken?  Or the milk braised pork (easiest thing I've done in ages, and again, absolutely wonderful).

I can pretty much assure you that salmon won't fly here either. :biggrin: Coq au vin is also on the list as is the fricasee of chicken definately. I'll take another look at the milk braised pork!

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