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Balsamic Braised Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

Balsamic Braised Chicken

Balsamic braised chicken with roasted vegetables isn’t the quickest dish you can make, but it’s aromas and flavors are worth it if you are looking for a wonderful Mediterranean-style Sunday dinner. Balsamic vinegar has been a bit overused as an ingredient in recent years. Here, it works very well by turning a simple braising liquid of wine and stock into a complex sauce that complements both the chicken and the vegetables.

Feel free to change up the vegetables as you like. I’ve made this with broccoli, artichoke hearts and Brussels sprouts and the results were equally delicious. For the wine, I like to use a medium-bodied Italian red like a San Giovese/Chianti — something you might like to drink along with the dish. 

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Shrimp, Braised Pork Belly with Orange Gastrique

braised pork belly

A few years ago, pork belly was, for some reason, very popular in fine restaurants. And while it seems to be out of favor more recently, it’s still a very interesting meat to work with. This recipe combines braised pork belly seasoned with five-spice powder, ginger and garlic with sauteed shrimp, topped by a sweet/sour orange gastrique. It makes for a terrific appetizer for six to eight people or a light meal for four. Add a few sauteed pea pods or crisp field greens for color and a bit of remoulade for dipping the shrimp and you’re all set.

What I like about this dish is that it combines a multitude of textures and complimentary flavors that somehow come together into a delicious whole. It also looks beautiful on a plate. It also demonstrates one of the many uses for gastriques, which can turn many simple dishes into something special. 

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Beef Shank Braised in Red Wine

Beef Shank Braised in Red Wine

It’s rare that I come across good quality beef shank slices, especially hind shank, which is large enough — 12 inches in diameter or more — to feed a small family. If you’ve ever made osso bucco, you’ll know the cut I’m talking about: a circle of meat with a marrow bone in the center. When I do find hind shanks, especially if I can get them from one of the ranchers at the local farm market, it seldom takes long for the braising pot to make an appearance. Even from the farm market, beefs shank is far more economical than veal that’s cut for osso bucco.

The main thing about braised beef shank is that it takes awhile to cook. How long depends on many things. Grass fed beef tends to be more tender generally, but if the steer has done a good bit of work (for example by being pastured where there are steep hills), that will offset the tenderness advantage a bit. Seriously, it matters.  Since you can’t reliably know some of the factors, it’s mainly a cook and check kind of method. That requires a bit of leeway in the serving time.

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Braised Pork Cheeks

pork cheeks

I’ve seen beefs cheeks on menus in some very good restaurants, but I can’t recall ever seeking pork checks. When I went to my favorite butcher looking for beef cheeks, which turned out to be unavailable, he suggested pork cheeks instead. I took his suggestion and I’m happy I did.

From a cooking standpoint, beef or pork cheeks are not much different from chuck or shoulder, they’re well-used muscles and need to be tenderized, either with a marinade, slow braising or both. But pork cheeks are one of my very favorite cuts now, because they have a terrific flavor, much better than many other pork cuts.

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Vietnamese Braised Fish (Ca Kho To)

braised fish

When we visit our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, Carol and I frequently order clay pot fish. It’s this wonderful caramelized, spicy concoction that is layered with flavors and melts in your mouth. What’s not to like?

After a bit of research, I quickly learned that while the dish is traditionally made in a real clay pot, the restaurant versions are made more conventionally and served in clay pots. When you think about it, that makes sense. It also meant that I didn’t have to run out to find appropriate clay pots to make this myself.

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Braised Chicken with Apples

Chicken-apples

One thing is sure. I’m fairly enamored of braising meat, in part because, once assembled, a braise can be left to simmer while I tend to other things, like tending to Discovery Cooking. Braising also is economical in that it tends to work best with less expensive cuts of meat. This braised chicken recipe fits that model perfectly and for a bonus, has a wonderful apple flavor that sets it apart.

If you are at all interested in the science behind cooking, here’s how a braise works:

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