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Post 2: Culinary School the Gluten-Free Way--Braising

Posted Nov 08 2009 10:00pm

First of all, I' m sorry it' s been so long since posting, but it' s been an insane month! Between working for Delight Gluten-Free Magazine (aka the best food magazine ever), attending culinary school at ICE and planning my fabulous gluten-free wedding, it' s been just crazy!!

Culinary school has been incredibly intense...intense in an amazing way. I' ve learned more about food in the past two months than probably my entire life and most importantly, I' ve learned how chefs think about food as they prepare classic preparations in their restaurants. The good news is that out of the nearly 100 recipes we' ve mastered so far, only a handful have used gluten, and those that did were incredibly easy to substitute.

Here are a few examples of easy substitutions:

  • Roux: if you' re making a classic roux, you' re going to use equal parts flour and butter. But how much flour and butter do you need to make a particular quantity? You' re going to need 1 tablespoon of starch for every cup of liquid you' re going to add.  For a gluten-free roux, substitute 1 tablespoon of either cornstarch or potato starch for the wheat flour and you' ll have a fantastic roux. If you don' t have any of these starches in your pantry, you could also use white or brown rice flour, an all-purpose gluten-free flour, or arrowroot.
  • Breading: breading proteins is very important when it comes to pan frying and deep frying foods. Obviously the traditional breadcrumbs won' t work. During our lessons on pan and deep frying, I tested out some of the most popular brands of gluten-free breadcrumbs to find the best products on the market. My two favorite brands were Gillian' s Breadcrumbs (rice based) and the Glutino Breadcrumbs (corn based). 

Now, on to my favorite lesson of the week: Braising. Braising is fantastic because the finished product is incredibly moist, tender and almost melts in your mouth. The sauces or gravies served with braised meats are rich and delicious and perfect for holiday meals. And, you can make them way ahead of time! Start them early in the morning, put the ingredients in the crock pot and have a piping hot dinner ready when you get home from work. Or plan ahead for holiday gatherings and make your braise the day before! It will taste just as good reheated on day 2.

To give you the basics, braising is a wet heat cooking method in which a food item is halfway submerged in a liquid and cooked until it becomes fork tender or it falls off the bone. Yum! Just imagine grandma' s brisket coming out of the oven all hot and juicy and falling right off into your mouth. Most often, you' ll want to braise large pieces of tough meats that you want to tenderize. So we' re talking about brisket, shanks, legs and thighs, and beef or pork shoulder. But, don' t worry, you can also braise vegetables! In fact, you' ll find two great braised vegetables recipes ahead!

Steps for a Perfect Braise: below are steps to take to make sure your braise never fails. These are just steps. The precise recipes will follow.

  1. Season your meat well. You don' t want to end up with a bland meal, so be sure to heavily season both sides of your meat with salt and if you want, pepper. 
  2. Heat a large rondeau and add a small amount of butter or oil. Sear the 2 largest sides of the meat to get a golden color and draw out some of the meat fat. Don' t cook it for too long. You' re just trying to get color, not actually cook the meat through. Remove the meat from the pan.
  3. Add in mirepoix (aromatic vegetables such as celery, carrots and onions or shallots). Caramelize the mirepoix, adding extra butter or oil if you need to.
  4. Once the mirepoix is caramelized, deglaze your pan using wine or alcohol. Reduce the liquid until it is almost dry.
  5. Add enough chicken/veal/beef/vegetable stock to cover your meat halfway. Just guess at this point since your meat isn' t actually in the pan right now.
  6. Re-add the meat into the pan. I know you' re sitting there reading this wondering why I say to add the stock first. There' s a really good reason! The pan is hot and nearly dry, so you don' t want the meat or vegetables to burn. So get the stock in and then add back your meat.
  7. Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until your meat is fork tender or falls off the bone.
  8. Once the meat is cooked, remove it from the pan. Strain the braising liquid. Pour into a sauce pot. Reduce to desired thickness or add a slurry of cornstarch (cornstarch + water) to thicken the sauce. 
  9. Serve! I like to serve my braised meats with mashed potatoes or steamed rice, but pick your favorite starch and serve it up!

So how can you apply this lesson to your daily life? Here are some of my favorite recipes from culinary school that you' ll be able to whip up at home for a fabulous dinner. On the menu today are: Braised Lamb Shanks with Juniper & Rosemary, Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Balsamic Vinegar, Braised Red Cabbage, Braised Leeks. Click continue below to view the full recipes.

Braised Lamb Shanks with Juniper & Rosemary
4 lamb shanks, cross cut into 2” pieces
Canola Oil/EVOO/Clarified Butter
12 ounces mirepoix, medium dice (carrots, onions, celery)
5 Juniper berries, lightly crushed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12 fl. ounces red wine
2 rosemary sprigs
32 fl. ounces veal stock
2 teaspoons rosemary, minced

1.    Preheat the oven to 400F.
2.    Season lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a sauté pan. Brown well in oil and remove from the pan. Reserve.
3.    Brown the mirepoix and juniper berries in the same pan until lightly caramelized. Add tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
4.    Deglaze with the red wine, bring to a boil and reduce by ½.
5.    Return the shanks to the pan. Add the rosemary sprigs and veal stock. Bring to a boil, cover and place in the oven. Cook until tender.
6.    Remove finished lamb shanks from the pan. Strain the braising liquid and return it to the pan. Reduce the sauce to nappe (coats the back of a spoon). Stir in the minced rosemary and adjust the seasoning. Coat the lamb shanks with the finished sauce.

Braised Chicken Thighs with Mushrooms and Balsamic Vinegar
3 quarts chicken stock
3 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
2 bay leaves
6 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin on
Canola Oil/EVOO
6 shallots, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, small dice
6 fl. ounces balsamic vinegar
5 ounces Shiitake mushrooms cleaned and stemmed
5 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
5 ounces oyster mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed
5 ounces portobello mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and gills removed
3 ounces butter
4 fl. ounces heavy cream

1.    Simmer the chicken stock with the porcini mushrooms and bay leaves for 20 minutes. Strain.
2.    Pat dry chicken thighs and season well with salt and pepper. Brown in the canola oil and remove.
3.    Sweat the shallots and celery in the same pan. Return the chicken to the pan and deglaze with balsamic vinegar. Add strained stock to the chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise until done (fork tender).
4.    Saute the shiitake, cremini, oyster and Portobello mushrooms in butter and finish with heavy cream. Season and reserve.
5.    Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve while preparing the sauce. Strain the braising liquid. Return the strained liquid to the pan and reduce to nappe.
6.    Return the chicken to the sauce and add the mushrooms. Adjust the seasoning.

Braised Red Cabbage
2 ounces bacon, sliced
4 ounces yellow onion, finely diced
1 head red cabbage, finely sliced
1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced
12 fl ounces water
4 fl ounces red wine
2 fl ounces red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons red currant jelly

1 cinnamon stick
1 clove
12 juniper berries

1.    Render the bacon in a large saucepan
2.    Add the diced onion and sweat until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, including the sachet, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until cabbage is tender, about 40 minutes. Adjust the seasoning.

Braised Leeks

4 leeks
32 fl ounces chicken stock
1 ounce butter
2 tablespoons parsley, minced

1.    Remove withered leaves from leeks and trim root ends, being careful not to remove entirely. Without cutting through root, slit leeks lengthwise once, give them a quarter turn and slit them lengthwise again. Was under water. Trim to length of 8inches.
2.    Place leeks in baking dish or skillet to hold in single layer. Pour enough liquid to come halfway up leeks. Add butter or oil and season with salt and pepper.
3.    Place leeks over high heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered until white parts are easily pierced with tip of paring knife, about 20-30 minutes. Remove leeks from the liquid and serve.
4.    To hold the leeks, place in ovenproof dish. Cover with foil and keep in a 200F oven for up to 30 minutes. To reheat, reserve cooking liquid. About 20 minutes before serving, bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer. Add leaks to pan until hot, about 3 to 4 minutes. Sprinkle with minced parsley to serve.

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