Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Braised meats

In the post-surgical world after WLS, the textural quality of foods is very important to our ability of eat dishes like meats as well as digest them efficiently. I have found that braising meats often makes them more easily eaten and when using braising you can greatly increase the taste profiles and flavors of the dish. Normally, braised meats are served over some carbohydrate such as rice, mashed or roasted potatoes, polenta, or other types of pasta. In our world of restricted eating, carbohydrates are a significant component of the following dishes. You just have to adjust the quantity you eat. I have included three chicken dishes and one using fish. These are generally dishes which make a lot of food, so be prepared either to have some friends over or put some of the food away in the freezer for another meal or two. Mangia!
Chicken in green chili mole
Moles are typical chile sauces made in Mexico and central America and provide a complex flavor to the dishes where they are used. There are hundreds of recipes for moles, and they often include many different types of chiles, bitter chocolate and lots of different spices. They are often very complex but well worth trying. Mexican and Central American markets will often have the primary ingredients. This mole is pretty simple and provides a nice spicy counterpoint to the chicken.

1 whole chicken (3–4-lb), cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup chopped cilantro stems
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 bay leaf

Green chili mole
8 oz. tomatillos, peeled and chopped
2 jalapeños, stemmed and chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 8″ flour tortillas, toasted
3 tbsp. canola oil
Directions: To cook the chicken, place the chicken pieces, cilantro, salt, peppercorns, garlic, onion, bay leaf, and 12 cups water in a 6-qt. saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from saucepan and strain liquid through a fine strainer; reserve about 4 cups of the braising liquid. Save remaining liquid and freeze for another use as a spicy addition to rice or a simple chicken soup. Set chicken and liquid aside.
Heat tomatillos and jalapeños in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until darkened and thick, about 10 minutes. Transfer the cooked mixture to a blender with cilantro, salt, garlic, tortillas, and 1 cup reserved cooking liquid; puree until smooth.
Heat the oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat; then add the tomatillo sauce and fry, stirring constantly, until it thickens into a paste, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining cooking liquid and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until reduced and thickened, about 30 minutes. Add chicken pieces and cook until heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve with rice cooked with chopped tomato, chopped onions, and tablespoon of salsa and heated flour or corn tortillas.

Chicken Stewed in Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is used in chicken stews from Southeast Asia to Africa, from which this fragrant dish hails. It makes a very delicious braising liquid, imparting an exotic flavor to the meat. This is a highly spiced dish requiring some spices that may not be common on your pantry shelves. If the turmeric has been in the cabinet for so long you forgot it was there, it would probably be best to toss it and get a new bottle. The same holds true for lots of ground spices like cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and cumin. Whole spices can last for a long time, if you toast them gently then grind them for each use. Ground spices are probably good for about a year, and then become relatively tasteless. Depending upon the number of chilies used this dish can be from moderately spicy to very hot. Thai chiles can be found at oriental groceries or small red chiles can substitute. Use your palate’s judgment as well as some restraint, when you cook this for the first time. This dish will serve 6-8 people. 

1⁄4 cup canola oil
1 1⁄2 tsp. ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 green or red Thai chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced
4 plum tomatoes, cored and minced
1 medium red onion, minced
4 skinless bone-in chicken legs and thighs, separated
1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice (don’t use bottled lime juice here)
2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups cooked rice, for serving
Finely chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish 
Directions: Heat the oil in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add the turmeric, garlic, chiles, tomatoes, and onions and cook, stirring often, until the onions are caramelized, 20–25 minutes. Add chicken to pot along with lime juice and coconut milk. Bring mixture to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, put rice into 4 serving bowls and spoon chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with cilantro and season with more black pepper.

Chicken “Osso Bucco”
This is a nice variation on the classic Italian veal shank dish. Serve it with a classic gremolata (finely minced mixture of parsley, lemon peel, and garlic). 
8 chicken drumsticks or thighs
4 tsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for pasta
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups tomato sauce
4 cups chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig of fresh thyme and a bay leaf
1 1⁄2–2 cups penne pasta
1 tomato, diced
Chopped fresh parsley 
Directions: Lightly coat drumsticks with flour. Heat olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add drumsticks and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.  
Add carrots, onions, celery, peppers and garlic to skillet and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits. Add tomato sauce, chicken stock, zest, and juices. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the thyme and the bay leaf. Continue cooking, uncovered, over medium-high heat until sauce thickens, 20–30 minutes. 
Preheat oven to 325°. Return the chicken to pan and bake, covered, until chicken is cooked through, 20–30 minutes.  
Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain and toss with a little olive oil. To serve, spoon chicken and sauce over pasta and garnish with tomatoes and parsley or the gremolata.  

Braised Cod with Kale and potatoes
Cod is a meaty, hearty fish that stands up to the dense and earthy flavor of kale. You can also substitute halibut for the cod. Serve this dish with French bread and a fresh green salad.  
1 lb. leeks
4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 lb. new potatoes, washed and halved
1 lb. thick cod or halibut fillets cut into large pieces
3 packed cups washed, stemmed, and roughly chopped kale leaves
1 cup dry white wine or stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Directions: Trim off and discard green tops of leeks. Roughly chop the white part, place in a colander, and wash thoroughly in running water to remove all sand. Drain and dry on paper towels. Heat 3 tbsp. of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over low heat. Add leeks and garlic and cook slowly until leeks are tender, about 20 minutes.  
Dry potatoes well and add to the pan. Raise heat to medium-high and sauté until lightly browned, about 3–5 minutes. Add kale and stock or white wine. Cover, lower heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender and kale has cooked down, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, sear the fish in a lightly oiled nonstick pan over medium-high heat until golden, about 1 minute per side. Add fish to kale mixture and continue to simmer until fish is opaque, about another 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.