Basic meat, ingredients & recipes to braise your spirits

Chef Trent O'Drain's Braised Beef Minestrone.
Chef Trent O'Drain's Braised Beef Minestrone. (Michele Tranquilli)
Posted: January 28, 2010

Try one of these flavorful and affordable dishes as a hearty antidote to blustery, late winter weather, or to feed the crowd for Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 7. They're easy to make ahead.

BRAISED PORK SHOULDER

1 5-6 pound Boston butt or pork shoulder

2 tablespoons bacon fat (or olive oil)

2 Spanish onions, sliced

2 bulbs fresh fennel, sliced

1 carrot, sliced

10 bay leaves

6 sprigs rosemary

2 bulbs fresh garlic, split

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 cups white wine

Water as needed

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. In a heavy Dutch oven, heat bacon fat or oil over medium heat and gently brown the meat. Add remaining ingredients along with enough water to cover the meat halfway, and bring to a simmer. Cover, place in oven and cook for about 8 hours, or overnight.

Remove the now very relaxed meat and put on a platter. Strain the broth, removing surface fat with a spoon. Reduce if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Pull the meat apart with two forks and serve with crusty bread and plenty of jus on the side. Serves 8-10.

Source: Chef Carlo DeMarco, Firecreek

LAMB SHANK BRAISED WITH SHALLOTS

4 lamb shanks

4 tablespoons soybean or olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup flour

1 diced carrot

1/2 Spanish onion, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, diced

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 750 ml. bottle cabernet sauvignon

8 cups chicken broth (or more, to almost cover meat)

8 shallots, peeled

Roasted Root Vegetables (see recipe

below)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, rub the lamb shank with oil, salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg, and lightly dust with flour. (Note: For gluten-free prep, brown without flour.)

In a heavy pot on top of the stove, gently brown the shanks in oil on all sides. Add the wine, bring to a boil, then add enough chicken stock or water to almost cover. Add all cut vegetables, thyme and bay leaves, and bring the liquid to a slow simmer. Transfer pot to the oven and bake for 2 hours.

Transfer the shank to a large plate to rest. Strain the braising liquid through a sieve and with a ladle press to extract as much liquid from the vegetables.

Discard the vegetables. Skim off any fat that floats on the surface of the liquid.

Increase oven heat to 350 degrees. Put the shanks back in the cleaned roasting pan. Pour in the strained liquid and add the whole peeled shallots. Cook at 350 degrees for another hour, or until the meat can be pulled away easily from the bone. Serve with roasted root vegetables (see below). Serves 4.

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced

4 turnips, peeled and diced

1 celery root, peeled and diced

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 sprig fresh thyme

Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Put all the vegetables, the cayenne and the herb sprigs in a large baking dish. Season well with salt and black pepper, drizzle generously with olive oil, and toss them with your hands to coat them evenly.

Cook, stirring the vegetables occasionally, until they are tender and golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serves 4-6.

Source: Chef/owner Patrice Rames of Bistro St. Tropez, Patou

BRAISED BEEF MINESTRONE

1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut

into 1-inch cubes

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

16 ounces frozen mixed vegetables, or minestrone soup vegetables

Salt and pepper

4 cups beef broth

14 1/2-ounce can Italian-style diced tomatoes

24 ounces seasoned tomato sauce

1/2 cup ditalini soup pasta

15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

6 ounces baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Dust beef with flour; pat off excess.

Heat oil in deep, heavy-bottomed pan on medium high until oil faintly smokes. Add beef; sear 8-10 minutes on all sides till they are paper-bag brown.

Remove beef from pan; don't discard pan drippings. Add vegetables to pan with beef drippings; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.

Return beef to pan. Add beef broth, tomatoes and sauce, then cover and place in oven. Braise on center rack of oven for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Add dry pasta and beans 20 minutes before end of cooking.

Remove from oven. Stir in spinach. Let rest 2 minutes, until spinach is slightly wilted, then serve. Serves 6.

Source: Executive Chef Trent O'Drain, Wegmans Cherry Hill

AVALON RESTAURANT BRAISED CHICKEN THIGHS

8 chicken thighs, skin on

Fresh-ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

3 carrots, peeled and diced

4 stalks celery, diced (reserve green leafy tops)

1 medium onion, diced

Fresh thyme, to taste

1 cup dry white wine

1 quart (or more) low-sodium chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season thighs with salt and pepper on all sides. Heat a large skillet, braising pan or cast iron Dutch oven over medium to high heat.

Add oil and heat until very hot, almost smoking. Place chicken thighs in pan, skin side down. Lower the heat to medium. Do not move thighs once in pan for at least one minute; you want a crispy, golden-brown color on the skin. Turn chicken and cook until skin is golden brown on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons butter, carrots, celery, onion and thyme. Allow to cook down until the onions become very translucent, about 5 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently and scrape all the crisp bits from the bottom of the pan.

Remove meat and vegetables from pan and deglaze pan with white wine; reduce by half.

Place chicken thighs back in pan on top of vegetables, skin side up. Add chicken stock and bring to boil. Cook over medium to high flame until liquid starts to boil. Place uncovered in oven for 45-55 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and place chicken thighs on a serving platter. With a slotted spoon, remove vegetables and spoon over chicken thighs. Place the sauté pan back on your stovetop and reduce over medium-high heat until liquid is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Add additional 2 tablespoons butter. It's optional but helps to thicken the sauce and adds a rich flavor. Spoon a little sauce over the thighs and serve the rest in a gravy boat. Garnish the platter with raw celery leaves. Serves 4-6.

Source: Chef/owner John Brandt-Lee, Avalon Restaurant

BRAISED KIELBASA & SAUERKRAUT

3 pounds rope kielbasa, cut into

5-inch lengths

1/4 pound butter

2 large onions; diced

1 cup white wine

3 pounds sauerkraut

2 pounds red or Yukon Gold

potatoes, cut in 1-inch dice

Water as needed (or chicken broth)

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in large pot over medium heat. Prick kielbasa with fork several times on all sides. Sauté for 2 minutes on each side until skin becomes golden and crisp. Remove from pan and reserve. Add onions to pan and sauté until translucent. Deglaze with white wine to reduce by half.

Return kielbasa and sauerkraut to the pot and fill with water until covered. Cook over medium to high heat, covered, for 20 minutes. Add the potatoes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another 20 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender. Serves 4-6.

Source: Chef/proprietor Walter Staib, City Tavern

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