COOK CLUB FEBRUARY: Sear, then simmer for beautifully braised dishes

Carly Weber
Published: February 6 2014 | 8:08 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:16 am in

Braising is all too often cast as an understudy in the kitchen. Underused and undervalued, it waits in the wings while stars such as barbecuing and frying get all the good roles.

To be fair, it isn’t adventurous like flambe or romantic like fondue. Braising doesn’t encourage gathering up a group of friends around the Dutch oven. Can you imagine sending out invitations for a braising party?

All the more reason, though, to make braising the focus of the second month of The Gazette KCRG-TV9 Cook Club.

Braising — in this case Clementine and Coconut Milk-Braised Chicken Breasts — is a nice segue from last month’s slow cooker focus, because whether you knew it or not, if you’ve used a crockpot, chances are you’ve cooked by braising.

Braising is the browning and slow cooking of ingredients in a moderate amount of liquid in a covered pot.

The authentic braise starts with a quick pan-fry of the meat or main ingredient over high heat to caramelize and sear the outside, then adding liquid and spices and lowering to a simmer and cooking slowly for a few hours on the stovetop, in the oven or in a slow cooker.

It is a technique commonly used for tough cuts of meat such as a rump roast that need the extra coaxing of a long, slow cook. Other cuts of meat, fish and even vegetables are improved by this method that relies on warm moisture to tenderize the ingredients gently.

A Dutch oven is the ideal pot for braising because you can place it in the oven. Other lidded pots on the stovetop will do too, though.

The beauty of the braise is you can prepare your braise dish on the weekend, cool it and put it in the fridge to be gently warmed up later in the week. In fact, it will only enhance the flavors and add to the moistness this technique already does so well.

For all its lack of party panache, the braise is built for busy cooks.

And, if we are being honest, it is also worthy of a festive Friday with friends.

Clementine & Coconut Milk Braised Chicken

Serves 4

2 to 2 1/2 pounds bone-in chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped fine

8 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup rice vinegar

1 13.5 ounce can light coconut milk

3 clementines, unpeeled, cut in half

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

2 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and place an oven rack to the lower-middle position.

Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat one tablespoon olive oil over high heat in Dutch oven. Add chicken breasts and brown on both sides, about five minutes each. Remove to a plate and allow to cool slightly before removing and discarding the skin.

Add one tablespoon oil to Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Saute onions until softened, about five minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander and cayenne and saute until fragrant, about two minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Pour in soy sauce and rice vinegar, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in coconut milk. Squeeze clementine halves to release juice into the pot and place halves in the liquid.

Lastly, add the carrots and chicken, making sure the chicken is only one third to one half submerged.

Turn heat up to high and allow it to come to a slow boil. Turn off burner, place lid on Dutch oven and place in oven. Cook about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove pot from oven and place on burner. Remove clementines, chicken and carrots before turning burner to high. Boil liquid for about 5 minutes or until it reduces by one-fourth. Stir in baby spinach and add carrots back in. Once spinach wilts, remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Cut or shred chicken and add it back into pot or place on top of sauce on each plate. Garnish with cooked or fresh clementines if desired.

Serve over brown rice or noodles.

Source: Heather Younker for The Gazette KCRG-TV9 Cook Club

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