Somehow, along the culinary continuum, braising as a cooking method has gone somewhat out of style. Or perhaps people and foodies are simply calling it something else. Well, a rose by any other name is still a rose, and a braised dish will always be a braised dish. And rather a good thing it is too!
Braising is essentially the method by which a food, generally meat but sometimes fish or fowl, is cooked for a lengthy period of time with a small amount of liquid. Sounds a tad boring, but the result is uniquely wonderful.
Braising can take a long time, like a stew, but it can also be surprisingly brief if you’re using fish or vegetables, items that adapt surprisingly well to this technique.
The recipes below showcase this adaptable technique with delicious rewards. The chicken dish is sweet without being overly so, the wine and orange juice co-mingling with the cumin and dates. The fish can be prepared in no time for a sophisticated treat in the middle of the week.
BRAISED CHICKEN WITH ORANGE JUICE AND DATES
4 whole chicken legs, cut into thighs and drumsticks
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 tsp. each ground ginger and cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb. dates, pitted and halved lengthwise (or 12 whole apricots)
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Preheat oven to 350. Place flour in flat dish. Brush chicken with mustard, dip into flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in large ovenproof Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. The pan should be large enough to hold chicken pieces in one layer. Sear chicken until golden brown on both sides, remove chicken from pan and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, garlic and carrots to pan. Cook until onions are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cumin and salt for 1 minute. Sprinkle leftover flour over onions and cook, stirring until well blended, 2 minutes. Increase heat to high and stir in wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Stir in chicken broth, orange juice, tomato paste and bay leaf, mixing well.
Return chicken to pan. Bring to boil. Cover, braise in centre of preheated oven for 30 minutes. Add dates or apricots. Cook for about 45 more minutes or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bone.
Using slotted spoon, remove chicken and dried fruit from pan; keep warm on plate. Skim off as much fat from sauce as possible. Stir in green pepper. Over medium-high heat, bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Pour sauce over warm chicken, sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
HALIBUT WITH MUSHROOMS AND VERMOUTH
4 tbsp. butter
5 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms (about 12 oz.)
4 cloves garlic, minded
1/2 cup dry vermouth (or 1/4 cup dry vermouth and 1/4 cup white wine)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 halibut fillets, about 6 oz. each
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. grated fresh lemon rind
In large skillet, melt 3 tbsp. of butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until well browned. Stir in garlic for 30 seconds. Add vermouth, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Boil for about 2 minutes or until reduced by half. Lay halibut filets over mixture. Season fish with an additional 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Cover pan, braise for about 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Transfer fish to serving platter and keep warm. Over low heat, whisk remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into sauce to finish sauce. Spoon sauce over fish. Stir together parsley and lemon rind, sprinkle over fish and serve. Makes 4 servings.