DEBORAH CROMBIE: I am all about braising these days. My enabling friend, Gigi (who has a world-class Le Creuset collection), loaned me her Le Creuset braiser for a couple of months. Then, when it had just got cool enough for stews and roasts and braised veggies to sound appealing, she took the braiser back. The nerve! (She wanted to use it herself. Imagine.)
That very same day we took a quick spin to the Le Creuset shop at the outlet mall and I came back with my very own 3 1/2 quart cast iron brasier, in Caribbean blue. (On the right, above.) Since then I've been trying some fun things, quickly learning why the French call the braiser the "cook everything" pot.
So, yesterday, I was hunting through my horribly disorganized three-ring recipe binder for Thanksgiving things and came across this loose newspaper clipping.
If you can't read the fine print, here's a better version:
Rich Autumn Pork Stew with Beer
2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder, cut in 1.5 inch pieces
Salt and pepper
6 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
2 medium apples, peeled and cut into 0.5 inch pieces
2 Tbsp finely minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 cup diced canned or fresh tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth (bouillon)
1 bottle (12 oz.) beer
2 Tbsp brown sugar
Cooked buttered egg noodles
1. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat 4 Tbsp oil in a heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Brown the pork well in batches. Remove to a bowl.
2. Wipe casserole clean and heat the remaining oil over low heat. Add onions, carrots, and apples. Stir until softened, 10 minutes adding the garlic in the last 3 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients except the noodles. Return pork and any juices to the casserole.
3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring, until the meat is very tender, about 1.5 hours. Discard the bay leaf; adjust seasonings. Serve over egg noodles in shallow bowls.
Serves 4. Per serving: 580 calories, 34g carbs, 43g protein, 155mg cholesterol, and 27g fat.
I thought, hmm, I'll bet that would work in the braiser. A quick trip to the supermarket, and I'm all set to try this today, except that I think I'll substitute hard cider for the beer.
You can, of course, braise in any sort of covered skillet. It doesn't have to be cast iron, and it certainly doesn't have to be Le Creuset. BUT, things cook in cast iron like nothing else, and Le Creuset is, in my amateur opinion, the best. Maybe you can buy better cast iron cookwear, but I'm not ever likely to be tempted. (And besides, our outlet mall shop regularly runs 30% to 40% off sales, which makes the Le Creuset a little more affordable for a life time's worth of cooking.)
My challenge is this. If the spirit of autumn strikes you (our first Norther blew through north Texas yesterday and our teeth are chattering), try this recipe with me. Substitutions allowed. Or try something else in whatever you have in your kitchen that will work for a braiser. And let us know how it turns out.
A fun note. According to the bottom of the recipe clipping, dated September 13, 2009, the total cost of this meal is $9.86. (Does that include the noodles, I wonder?)
My cost today at my budget supermarket down the street, for 2.64 pounds of pork butt (no shoulder available) was $8.43. So that leaves roughly a dollar for all the other ingredients, including the beer or cider. Ah, inflation...
REDS and READERS, are you up for the challenge? If so, let us know how it turns out. And give us your best braiser recipe!
And one more question, dear REDS. Do you still clip recipes? Or is it all Pinterest for you? I suppose Pinterest is much more efficient, as well as pretty, but it makes me a bit sad to think of the demise of my motley, decades old, collection of recipes--things that caught my eye, some of them much used, some of them never tried... A personal signature, if you will.