This month’s challenge was focused on the technique of braising. With a braise, the food (meat or vegetable) is typically seared over high heat, then cooked slowly in wine or stock. It’s a perfect way to cook cheaper, tougher cuts of meat, as the long, slow cook helps to break down the tough fibers and collagen.
Because we are quite lazy, really, when it comes to cooking, and our Northern California climate is usually pretty chilly, braising is perfect – we tend to either roast or braise with high frequency. So, to add to the challenge, we actually tried following one of the recipes, which, if you’ve visited us before, you know that we usually can’t manage to do. Fortunately, Carol, our hostess, provided a bunch of fantastic-sounding recipes to try and we selected the braised pork belly with caramel miso sauce. Not so surprisingly, it was incredibly delicious.
Later, we made Spanish style short ribs, which had been on our ‘must try’ list for a long time. They were fantastic and we truly regret waiting so long to actually make them.
First, though, back to the pork belly. Pork belly is certainly a very trendy ingredient – it seems to be on every menu these days. Mrs. Monkeyshines ordered it once for dinner and wasn’t entirely blown away. That pork belly was a bit fatty and tough. Not really all that surprising given the cut of meat, but not something either of us would walk a mile for. So, of course, pork belly seemed like the perfect thing to challenge ourselves with – see if it really is worth all the fuss. It is.
At least this recipe is:
Braised Pork Belly with Caramel Miso SauceServings: 6
1 ½ teaspoons coriander seeds
1 ½ teaspoons black peppercorns
3 pounds pork belly (with rind)
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, smashed with the flat side of the knife
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (we used 1/2 cup lemon juice)
Canola Oil (optional, in our opinion)
Easy Carmel-Butter Sauce
½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) sugar
4 tablespoons (60 ml) (60 gm/2 oz) butter
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup pork braising liquid
¼ cup easy caramel sauce
2 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce.
Directions – Braised Pork
1. Roast coriander and peppercorn in a dry (i.e. no oil needed) sauté pan over medium-high heat until fragrant – 2 minutes – and crush with mortar and pestle.
2. Preheat oven to very slow 250°F.
3. Season pork well with salt, Place it fat side up in a baking dish.
4. Scatter the bay leaves, onion and garlic over the pork – add orange/lemon juice and cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil.
5. Place in oven for 6 hours or until pork is fork tender – you can do plenty of other things in these 6 hours! Enjoy!
6. Allow to cool in juices, then cover, refrigerate, at least over night and up to 5 days.
7. Remove pork from dish, scrape off fat and seasonings and cut into 12 equal cubes – at this point, it is a basic braised pork that you may use for a stir fry or sautéed until crispy and serve with a salad. We cut off the pork skin at this point because, well, ewwww.. If we’d left it on, it might have cooked more tidily for us.
8. Heat a skillet over medium high heat. We didn’t use any oil, as there was still plenty of fat in the meat.
9. Sear pork pieces on all sides. Expect it to try to fall apart every time you look at it. Try to eat as many of the crispy bits in the pan as you can while your dear spouse isn’t looking.
10. Add the glaze and coat the pork.
Directions – Easy Carmel Sauce
1. Put sugar in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Do not stir.
2. When edges turn brown – swirl to distribute – a small stir is ok – but make sure your spatula is heat proof or use a wooden spoon. WARNING - sugar is very HOT!
3. When sugar is dark amber, add butter and ¼ cup (60 ml) of water.
4. Stir until bubbles subside – it bubbles quickly – simmer for a minute.
5. Remove from heat and set aside while you prep for the rest of the sauce.
Directions – Carmel- Miso Sauce
1. In a small sauté pan, melt butter over medium-high heat.
2. Add shallot and garlic and sauté till translucent.
3. Season with a sprinkle of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
4. Add pork braising liquid, caramel sauce, miso, red wine vinegar, soy sauce and fish sauce.
5. Bring to a simmer – cook for ½ a minute or so and remove from heat.
Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
The braised pork may be made up to 5 days in advance. It may be frozen as well. The caramel sauce will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator
We served ours with pea sprouts and lemon risotto cakes. It was a perfect combination.
For our next braising adventure, we decided to try a Spanish short rib recipe that includes chocolate, orange and sherry. Another thing you know if you’ve been here before is that Mrs. Monkeyshines abhors mixing sweet stuff with her savory food; even with her dessert, if it really comes down to it. So we’d looked at the recipe for years, but always shied away fearing it would be sweet and un-dinner-like. We needn’t have feared: it was phenomenal. The sauce gained a fantastic complexity after adding the chocolate and orange – it was good before, but incredible after.
Spanish-style Short Ribs
Serves 2 + leftovers
(Original recipe from Insalata's)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 1/2 lbs Short Ribs, cut into maybe 2 1/2” lengths
1 yellow onion
1 celery rib
1 small carrot
2 cloves garlic
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 can – 7 oz. tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 sprig thyme
4 cups beef stock (you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
1 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 Tbsp unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp fresh oregano
1 tsp fresh thyme
Zest of 1 orange
1 Tbsp butter
1. Heat the oven to 275 degrees F.
2. Chop the onion, celery and carrots into 1-inch chunks.
3. Generously salt and pepper the ribs. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the ribs in several batches until browned on all sides.
4. Remove the meat from the pan and add the celery, onion, carrots and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes until they start to caramelize. Add the wine, sherry, tomatoes, tomato paste and thyme. Cook about 5 minutes, until the liquid starts to reduce.
5. Return the meat to the pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then cover and bake for 4 hours or until the meat pulls easily away from the bones. – check it after 3 hours and see if you need to add more liquid or if you want to remove the lid to reduce the liquid a bit.
6. Remove the meat to a clean platter. Strain the pan juices, adding the vegetables to the platter with the meat. Stir in the chocolate, thyme, oregano, orange zest and butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Return the meat and vegetables to the pan to coat with the sauce.
8. Serve with mashed potatoes and the rest of that dry red wine.
The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.