by Terri Peña
While I enjoy grilling, and eating light, fresh from the garden salads, the grey days of fall and the dark days of winter are made more pleasurable by soups, stews, and braises. In the past, all of my braising had been done on the stove top. This technique produces tasty results, but requires more fussing than oven braising. When you have a long session of spinning, or handwork planned, you do not want to get up and check the pot every 15 minutes. There is one piece of equipment needed for oven braising, the dutch or french oven.
Just what is the difference between a dutch or french oven, and what makes them so special?
All of my life I have been calling my big round pot a dutch oven, it is after all dutch oven shaped, but it is not a dutch oven. Both French and Dutch ovens are large cast iron pots with thick sides, bottoms, and tight fitting lids. Both pots can be used on the stove, or in the oven. The Dutch version is plain cast iron, while the French version is enameled cast iron.
Dutch and French ovens come in many sizes and price points. Le Crueset and Staub are beautiful, will last a lifetime, and have price tags to match. If your bank account is feeling a little fat you can not go wrong. costco.com sells a vey nice french oven, actually made in France, for less than $100. Camping stores often carry dutch ovens around $50, and kitchen stores and department stores all seem to have one or two choices available.
Price is not the only consideration when choosing a pot for your house, size is also important.
Think about the volume of food you cook at once when deciding which pot to bring home. Make sure the lid is heavy and fits tightly, and that the pot and lid can be used both on the stove and in the oven. Dutch or French is purely an aesthetic choice, it is up to you.
Braising is a method of cooking that requires very little minding, and produces dishes that have everyone around the table saying MMM, and thinking you are some sort of cooking genius.
Once you have your pot in hand there are really only four steps to braising anything.
1. Sear the meat. On all sides, and season with salt and pepper. Once seared, remove from the pot and set aside.
2. Sauté your aromatics. Think onions carrots, garlic…
3. Deglaze the pot. Using wine, stock, or broth, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
4. Return the meat to the pot, add liquid to about 3/4 of the way up the side of the meat, cover, and slide it into the oven.
With those four steps you can make an unlimited number of main dishes using the type of meat and flavors that you love. If you would like to add vegetables to the pot to serve along with the meat, just add them to the pot 45 minutes before you plan to eat.
I will get you started with two recipes, one for short ribs, and one for chicken. After a few minutes of attention up front you can pick up your knitting and relax while the house fills with a delicious aroma.
Braised Chicken with Bacon and Apples
Apples are a sure sign of fall, and are delicious when paired with chicken and used in a braise.
Brown the chicken on the stove top well, it is not going to get the deep brown that comes from roasting in an oven. Braising a whole chicken is nice for presentation, but using cut pieces of chicken will work well too.
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 3 - 4 pound whole chicken, or enough pieces for your family
- 8 ounces bacon, either slab or strips, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- ½ cup hard apple cider or apple juice
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 apples, sliced
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- Preheat oven to 325F.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a french oven, then add the chicken and brown on all sides. Once brown, remove chicken to large
- platter and set aside.
- Add the bacon to the french oven and cook until crispy, then add the onions and cook just until they are covered with fat.
- Put the chicken on top of the bacon and onions, add hard cider or juice and bring to a boil. Take the pan off the heat, add bay
- leaves, cover, and slide it into the oven.
- Bake for 1½ hours or until the juices from the chicken are clear when pierced at the thickest parts.
- While the chicken is in the oven, prepare the apples by sautéing them in 1 tablespoon butter until they are tender, but not
- When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan, and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, add the cream, and the mustard,
- and continue to cook until reduced to a sauce that coats the back of a spoon.
Serve with a simple green vegetable, and biscuits to soak up all that glorious sauce.
Another recipe : Braised Short Ribs with Vegetables