Update 26: New Year's Goal: Become an "official" Gourmess by August 2010

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

Session 17: Braising and Marinades was a relief (I didn't have to scale, fillet, or kill anything). My book says that "the general braising technique involves cooking by wet heat with the food to be cooked partially immersed in liquid. The principle behind braising is exchange: the item being cooked gives off juices to the liquid, and in turn, the flavorful liquid infuses it." (pp.312)  Sounds good to me.

The first Demonstration was Jarret d'Agneau Braisé (Braised Lamb Shanks) served with Basic Couscous.   We had company staying with us, so the pressure was on for this dish to turn out well, and I think it did.  (Everyone's plates were clean at the end of the meal.)

The first step was to preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (It was hot and humid this weekend, so I was glad to have my convection oven, which heats up the kitchen much less than my kitchen range.) Then, I trimmed two large lamb shanks of excess fat (leave a very thin layer) and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I seared the lamb pieces (there were four) in a pan of hot olive oil for about 10 minutes, until nicely browned, then removed them from the pan.  Back into the pan went four cloves of peeled/crushed garlic, carrots, onions, and celery (strings removed) -- all three of which were cut in large pieces (carrots/onions large mirepoix, celery 1 inch pieces), and I sautéed them for about five minutes, until they started to color. I carefully drained off any fat from the pan, then put it back on medium heat.  I stirred in 1 and 1/4 cups of red wine (Burgundy) to deglaze the sucs from the bottom of the pan, and added in a little over two cups of veal stock and some coarsely chopped (cored/peeled) ripe tomatoes. I added more salt and pepper and then added the lamb back in.

I covered the pan, put it in the oven and braised for about 2.5 hours, until the shanks were nice and tender, but not yet falling off the bone.  I skimmed off the fat from the top of the surface and removed the shanks from the pan and tented with foil to keep warm. Then, I brought the liquid to a simmer for about 10 minutes until it had reduced a bit and thickened slightly.  I added more salt and pepper and kept warm.  The book said to trim the meat from the shank and place it in the sauce, then serve with the couscous.

Basic Couscous involved bringing one cup of White Chicken stock to a simmer then pouring over 6.5 oz. of couscous that I had put in a stainless steel bowl.  I quickly covered with plastic wrap and let sit for about 20 minutes.  Then, I added in about 1 TBS of melted, unsalted butter and some salt and pepper to taste.  I had some beautiful English peas from my organic box so decided to cook those (à l'anglaise) and added to the couscous for some color.

I sliced the lamb into small pieces and topped the couscous with the meat, sauce and vegetables.  It was a nice light dish (partly thanks to the couscous) with the wine and garlic complementing the lamb and vegetables adding crispness.   We ate this with a simple green salad with assorted herbs from the garden and a terrific Syrah from Chris's wine collection. So good!

The second Demonstration was Coq au Vin (Chicken in Red Wine Sauce) which is traditionally served with Pâtes à Nouilles Fraîches (Fresh Noodles).  My book also notes that this dish is traditionally made with rooster, and that if made with a white wine, it is called coq au Riesling.  First, I made my marinade which involved combining about 2.5 cups red wine, carrots, celery, onions (mirepoix) eight peppercorns, two bay leaves, a sprig of fresh thyme, and a clove of garlic (peeled/crushed) in a large bowl.  Into the bowl went a quartered chicken that had been rinsed (pat dry).  I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to marinate for about eight hours (the book says you can marinate it for three hours minimum, or preferably eight.)  

After the time was up, I removed the chicken pieces from the bowl (they were stained with wine) and then strained the marinade through my trusty chinois, separating the liquid from the vegetables/herbs, but reserving both. Then, I preheated the oven to 300 degrees.  I then got to work on the garnish.  I sautéed some bacon cut into lardons until nicely browned (about 5 minutes) and removed with a slotted spoon, to drain on paper towels. Into the bacon drippings went the chicken pieces (pat dry, season with salt and pepper first) and I seared them about 10 minutes, until golden brown, then transferred to a plate.

I got rid of any excess fat in the pan, and then added back in the vegetables/herbs from the marinade and sautéed those for about 10 minutes, until they started to color nicely.  Then, I stirred in some flour (singer) and cooked for about 2 minutes.  The chicken went back in the pan, and I added some cognac and flambered it, and then added in some veal stock and the reserved marinade and brought to a boil.  I lowered the heat and simmered (skimming off any fat) for about 10 minutes.  I put the cover on the pan and put it in the oven, where it braised for about 30 minutes until tender.

While it cooked, I finished the garnish. I cleaned and quartered button mushrooms and sautéed in butter (season with salt/pepper) for about 10-12 minutes, until browned.  I removed from heat and set aside.  Then, I took some pearl onions (peeled) and put in a small saucepan with a little bit of water, some sugar, and butter, and cooked until caramelized to a nice brown (glacer à brun). Those were set aside, too.  Then, using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, I cut out four hearts from a couple slices of white bread.  Our dear guest made a lovely brunch (challah french toast stuffed with cream cheese/whipped cream and topped with blueberries in syrup) so I used the challah bread that was left over.   I fried the pieces of bread in clarified butter until golden brown and set aside with the rest of the garnish items.

When the chicken was done (nice and tender), I transferred to a plate and strained the liquid through my chinois into a clean pan, getting rid of the solids. I skimmed off any fat that was on the surface and then brought the liquid to a boil. I lowered to a simmer and cooked for about 12 minutes, until a more sauce-like consistency was achieved.  I added more salt/pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, I made a bed of fresh egg noodles on a serving platter, nestled the chicken on top and poured the sauce over it.  I tipped the bottom of the heart toasts in the sauce and then into some chopped parsley and put on the middle of the plate.  I placed the lardons, mushrooms and onions around the dish and that was it.  Terrific, lovely, and oh-so Français!  Our guest said it deserved an "A"!

For the egg noodles:

I put semolina flour on a clean work surface and mounded it slightly to make a well in the middle. I broke 2 eggs into the well and added some coarse salt.  (You can mix 1/2 all-purpose flour and half semolina if you prefer, but should use 3 eggs instead of 2 for the recipe.)  I added some olive oil, and using a fork, I beat the wet ingredients together.  Then, using my hands, I worked the flour into the liquid, moving from the outside in, until I could put the dough into a ball.  I kneaded it for about 10 minutes until smooth and leathery, and then formed a ball, wrapped with plastic and chilled in the fridge for a couple hours. (Per the book, the longer the dough rests, the easier it is to roll out.)

 After cutting the chilled down into three equal pieces, I covered two of them with a damp towel (to keep from drying out) and flattened the third with a rolling pin and fed through the rollers of my pasta attachment set to its widest setting (mine fits on my Kitchenaid mixer), repeating at least three times and folding into thirds after each roll to keep smooth. It started to stick a bit, so I dusted with flour and that seemed to fix it. When all three balls of the dough were satin-like, I ran through my attachments at thinner and thinner settings until I had a thickness I wanted for the egg noodles.  I let the sheets of dough dry for about 20 minutes (the book says no more than 30) until it was pliable, but not brittle or tacky and then changed my attachment to the noodle cutter and cut the pasta sheets into standard egg noodles.  When ready to serve, I brought a pot of salted water to a boil and added the pasta and cooked until just tender (al dente) which only took a few minutes, and then drained it.  I tossed with with some butter and fresh herbs and a little salt and pepper, and that was it. It was a lovely addition to the chicken and there's nothing like fresh pasta... :)

I served this meal with a salad of greens from our garden, and a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon.  We also sopped up the sauce with a crusty bread -- the flavors were so great together, too -- the meat was tender and juicy and full of flavor, and the combination of the salty bacon, the sweet onions and mushrooms, and the eggy pasta...Yum. Yum. And more yum.

The last two Demonstrations for this lesson were marinades: Basic Cooked Marinade and Basic Uncooked Marinade. Marinades are used to add flavor and to tenderize the meat (amount of acid in marinade determines the degree of tenderizing). They are often used in braises and stews, and their ingredients have infinite possibilities. One note: items being marinated should always be refrigerated and a marinade that has raw meat in it can only be used as a sauce after it as been boiled--otherwise, you risk contaminating your food.

Both marinade recipes involved 7 TBS of vegetable oil, 2 oz. of carrots, 1.75 oz of onions, 1.5 oz. of celery, and .75 oz of shallots, all thinly sliced (émincé).  Then, depending on your preference or the item you are marinating, 3.25 cups of red or white wine and 2/3 cups of red or white wine vinegar and a bouquet garni. The recipes then differ from this point on.  For the cooked marinade, you heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add in the carrots, onions, celery and shallots and stir to combine. Then, in goes the wine and vinegar (I used white), the bouquet garni a whole clove, peeled and crushed garlic cloves to taste (I used 3) and a few peppercorns to taste (I used 6).  You bring this to a gentle simmer for 30 minutes, then set aside to cool completely before using it.  I will use this later in the week, or freeze for future, but will be tasty with chicken breasts on the grill.

The uncooked marinade involved combining the oil, carrots, onions, celery and shallots in a nonreactive bowl. Then, I added in red wine and vinegar, a bouquet garni, 20 parsley stems, a whole clove and about 6 peppercorns (to taste).  This will be a great marinade for steak...we're going to have some good eats this week!

So, next, we move on to Session 18: Basic Stuffings.

Coq Au Vin on Foodista