Archive for September, 2012

September 12, 2012

All About Braising

We’re creeping up on mid-September and the temperature is still tipping into the 80’s. I see relief on the horizon. With much enthusiasm, stock pot ready and wooden spoon in hand, I anticipate a fall and winter filled with homemade soups, stews and hearty meals. I’ve added a few culinary goals to my list for the season. These include Coq au Vin, a short ribs recipe and stepping away from the grill to slow roast a leg of lamb in the oven.

During a visit to our local nursery, I found one, lone, absolutely brilliant rosemary bush. I’m calling it a bush and not a plant because it’s perfectly lush and huge. I couldn’t leave the store without it. It’s sanctuary is now my kitchen, where I’ve been proudly snipping it’s fragrant, grassy branches. Just wait until I get around to slow roasting that lamb. Could there be a better pair than rosemary and lamb? I think my lamb dish might be the herb-stuffed leg of lamb from this cookbook.

Winner of the James Beard Book Award, Molly Stevens’ All About Braising is the quintessential cold weather cookbook. In addition to her recipes, she provides a comprehensive guide to cooking vessels best for braising, as well as a tutorial on Mastering the Art of Braising. There was lots to learn. This book is a must have for all you foodies out there.

Like all my cookbook purchases, I read it from front to back before I dove in to make my first dish. Although some foods braise in the oven, an equal number are made on the stove-top. My gas range runs very hot and can be difficult to simmer. I found a small section in the book about the Utility of a Heat Diffuser, ordered one and have now solved my simmering dilemma. I highly recommend this enameled cast iron flame tamer, especially if you cook low and slow dishes. It will give you the heat control you might be missing.

I made two dishes this week from Stevens’ book, Soy-Braised Chicken with Star Anise & Orange Peel and Pork Chops Braised with Hot Cherry Peppers. Both were delicious, but the unusual flavors of the chicken made it my favorite by far. I just had to share.


Adapted from All About Braising by Molly Stevens


  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp chicken stock
  • 3lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken (Stevens calls for thighs, I used both breasts and thighs)
  • 3 scallions, chopped – separate the white parts from the green
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil (I used grapeseed oil)
  • 3 garlic cloves,minced
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 dried small red chile pepper
  • 3 wide strips orange zest (remove with a vegetable peeler), each about 3″ long
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar and 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Set aside.

In a large oven-proof pot (I used a 6qt All Clad sauté pan) set on medium-high, add 2 tbsp of oil. Make sure your chicken pieces are dry to help them brown perfectly. If you’re using breasts, I recommend cutting them in half so they are similar in size to the thighs. Sear the chicken on each side for about 5-6 minutes or until golden. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan. You may need to brown the chicken in batches. Remove the browned chicken from the pan and set aside.

Pour off the fat in the pan and set it to medium heat back on the stove. Add the remaining tbsp of oil and sauté the whites of the scallions, garlic, ginger and chile pepper for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Pour in the soy sauce mixture and stir to scrape up any brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Add the orange peel and star anise.

Nestle the chicken back in the pan. Pour any accumulated juices from the plate into the pot. Cover with a secure lid and place the pan in the lower third of the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken over and make sure there is still about a 1/4 inch of liquid in the pan. If not, you can add some additional chicken stock. Continue cooking for another 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

Remove the pan from the oven, place the chicken on a platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Whisk the cornstarch with the remaining tbsp of chicken stock. Remove the star anise and chile pepper from the pan. Place the pan back on the stove set on medium-high heat. Add the scallion greens and pour in the cornstarch mixture, whisking until incorporated. The sauce will immediately thicken. Simmer for just a minute and pour the sauce over the chicken.

I served sliced oranges, steamed basmati rice and sautéed snap peas with shelled edamame alongside the chicken. A 5 star meal! Everyone loved it.

* Just a reminder, chicken breasts will cook faster than the dark meat. You should check the breasts with a meat thermometer (165 degrees is done) and you may need to remove them from the pan before the thighs to prevent them from drying out. Just place the cooked breasts on the platter and cover with foil to keep warm. I prefer chicken thighs, but made the breasts to satisfy my husband who insists white meat is better. Should I tell him he’s wrong again?

September 5, 2012

Nespresso Citiz w/ Milk

There was one culinary trend that stayed with us from our vacation this summer in South Africa – coffee. It’s hard to find a regular American style cup of coffee anywhere. Your choices are instant coffee, French Press coffee or cappuccino/espresso. We found the French Press coffee very strong and instant wasn’t an option, but the cappuccino was fantastic! Alan’s brother had us over to his place for a cappuccino from his new Nespresso machine. It was so good that one of the first things we did when we got back to the States was order a machine for ourselves. Seriously… I think we ordered it the same day we got home.  We purchased our machine in red from Bed Bath & Beyond online. It’s not available now through BBB, but they do still have a number of other Nespresso machines to choose from. You can order the Citiz w/Milk from Nespresso directly.

South African Cappuccino

Nespresso offers a number of machines. Some don’t have a milk frother integrated in the machine, which Nespresso calls an Aeroccino. You’d need to buy a separate Aeroccino to froth/steam your milk for those machines. If you prefer espresso, you won’t even need this. We selected the Citiz w/ Milk machine because we wanted to make cappuccino and I didn’t want to purchase two separate appliances.

This Nespresso Citiz machine is super easy to use and easy to clean. The integrated Aeroccino can be used to both steam and froth milk and it cleans up easily. The machine’s high bars of pressure produce that perfect crema on top of every cup – just like the professionals. You have to use the Nespresso capsules, called Grand Crus, which can only be purchased from the Nespresso website or from one of their store locations. Not a big deal, but you do have to pay for shipping when ordering online. The machine comes with a sleeve of 16 assorted capsules to get you started. We tried a few until we found the coffee we liked best. On an intensity scale of 1-10, we like our espresso somewhere between an 8 and 10.

I should add, the machine looks great on our counter! At .60 per capsule, if you’re a Starbucks junkie, a home espresso machine might actually save you some money in the long run.

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