Sunday, November 22, 2015

Jungle Red Autumn Braiser Cook-off

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.


  1. Yum, this sounds delicious and as the weather is decidedly cooler here, it's the perfect time to try this recipe. [And I'm definitely up for the challenge!]
    You are right, nothing cooks like cast iron. I'll let you know how ours turns out . . . .

  2. This sounds like a pretty good recipe, but I would leave out the apples, beer, and brown sugar--I'm a pretty savory eater and we're an alcohol-free family. I have a few clipped recipes in my home-made notebook but these days I get almost everything off the internet by googling the key ingredient or dish name and scanning recipes until I find something I like. I went Paleo so I'm now totally into braising food I can make in large quantities, and I agree 100% that Le Creuset is the way to go. My 7 quart dutch oven (in cassis) sits on the stove (my designer told me it was too pretty to keep in the cupboard) and I use it for almost everything both on the stove or in the oven. My personal favorite is a goulash recipe I've been refining for several years, and if I make it another ten times I might just get it perfect...

  3. While your post and recipe are enticing, Debs, I'll have to take a pass right now. My husband gets home in the morning, and we leave to visit our son and go to a college reunion for his rifle team and a UK (University of Kentucky) basketball game before we come back to company and Thanksgiving dinner. I'd love to give the recipe or something like it a try after Thanksgiving is over. And, I think I might have to get me some cast iron. You've inspired me.

    I do still clip recipes, but not as much as I used to do. I have several food boards on Pinterest, and I need to remember to use those more. Of course, I have lots of old recipes from in my mother's handwriting and others I've written out in my recipe drawer, along with ones I've clipped. I should really organize them one of these days.

  4. Thanks for the recipe! I'll make it tomorrow, but I think I will omit the brown sugar, too. My Le Creuset dutch oven is my favorite pot, bar none. And did you know the brand has a lifetime guarantee? You don't even need a receipt - just send it back if the enamel is wearing off and they'll send you a brand new one! Really. Even a pot you got at a thrift store...

    I've never used a recipe from Pinterest - never even thought of it. But if I can't find one in one of my books, I can usually find it on the internet. I do still cut out recipes from the newspaper - made cranberry pickles yesterday - and then I never know where to put them and they eventually get recycled.

  5. I clip too, from the New York Times, mostly. I do have things pinned but I forget about them.

    I could use Nancy Martin's suggestions to get rid of recipes I'll never use.

  6. Apple, beer, and brown sugar -

    YUM. When I got married in ahem 1969 I got a set of "Descoware"brand (they only made orange) of LeCreuset pots and pans - I still have most of the pieces and still use them.

    Here's my favorite pot roast, Jewish cousin to Deb's pork and super simple.

    Sprinkle a 2-lb slab of brisket with flour
    Brown it in a little oil.

    Over the meat, layer thinly sliced:
    onions (2 medium)
    mushrooms (1 lb)
    carrots (4 sticks)

    Dump over it:
    1/2 bottle of Heinz chili sauce
    1 can of beer
    1 package of Lipton onion soup mix

    Cover and cook over low heat on top of the stove or in the oven at 325 for about 3 hours until the meat is very tender.

    Serve with with potato pancakes, of course. Sinfully delicious.

  7. You know, I DO clip. And then..forget. But I never got into Pinterest or Epicurous.

    My bruiser pot thing, just like yours! Is the red one. And it;s a perfect stew day here! But my book is due in a week, sigh, so no cooking for me. Can you come over, maybe? xoxoo

  8. Always looking for something new to try and love recipes that require you to throw some things in a pot, let cook until tender, and voila--supper!

    I too have a three-ring binder--with pocket dividers, all labeled, and clipped, hand-written, printed-from-the-internet recipes all stuck in willy-nilly. Every so often I start to purge recipes that I know I'll never try, then I give up and shove the whole thing out of sight.

    Just made a delicious beef stew this week--nothing fancy, but flavorful and filling. Add a baguette and everyone's happy!

  9. Dear Christopher Lord, I want your goulash recipe, pretty please!

    Also, I love anything you can make in one pot. Tell me, is Le Creuset really worth the investment?

  10. Susan, it's definitely worth the investment. Look for sales, then start with one pot you think you'll use the most. Mine was the Kiwi green Dutch oven in the photo. Although--a weird story--when my parent moved from their home into an apartment, my mom found an open cardboard box by the complex dumpster, filled with brand new black Le Creuset. She picked the box up and gave it to me. Who would throw away brand new Le Creuset??? We made up stories for years. The pieces were a saucepan, a small casserole, and a little omelet-sized skillet that fit as a lid on a very small saucepan. So that's how I got bitten by the Le Creuset bug.

    Glad I'm not the only one who still clips. I'm afraid it may be a vanishing generational thing, however, as my daughter Pins all her recipes.

    Hallie, next time I want pot roast, I'm making yours!

    Hank, wish I could just run something over for you! I hope Jonathan is bringing you good take out. We're sending lots of good energy your way!

    Edith, I'll probably leave out the brown sugar, too, especially if I use cider instead of beer.

    Happy Sunday cooking, everyone!

  11. Susan: the recipe has been sent to your assistant. Enjoy and let me know what you think! And when you gasp at the amount of paprika I use, just remember: buy in bulk. And don't stint on the garlic...

    I totally believe Le Creuset is worth the investment. Mario Batali used to have a line with Sur La Table and his dutch oven got great reviews from Cook's Illustrated (second to Le Creuset) but I believe it has been discontinued. And I can tell anyone that if the enamel gets yellow (as it does over time, a rinse with bleach (be careful) brings it back to almost brand-new looks. I have one of each (Batali and Le Creuset) because I really like to braise and serve to groups of six-eight people. Hand-washing and drying is a must. Make the investment and you will keep it for life.

  12. Christopher, there's also a product called Barkeeper's Friend that cleans up Le Creuset beautifully. It takes a little elbow grease, though.

    I want the goulash recipe, too! Could you give it to all of us?

  13. Since I have all the ingredients on hand except the pork shoulder, I think I'll hop over to the store and make this tomorrow night. We have tonight's dinner all ready to go, but having something to put in the oven tomorrow is a good idea. While I don't own a Le Creuset, I do have a wonderful KitchenAid Dutch oven that gets a lot of use. And it's a good time of year to have something in the oven, warming up the kitchen.

    My favorite Dutch oven recipe could be made in a Le Creuset, since the handles (you should check yours first) can sustain up to 500 degrees. It's a fabulous No-Knead artisan bread. That would go well, by the way, with stew. It makes a crusty, round loaf.

    Speedy No-Knead Bread
    From Mother Earth News magazine.
    Time: about 1 hour, plus 4 ½ hours rising and resting.

    1 packet yeast
    1 ½ teaspoon salt
    3 cups BREAD sure it's bread flour like King Arthur.
    1 ½ cups warm water.
    Oil as needed

    1. Combine flour, yeast and sale in a large bowl. Add warm water and stir till blended.....dough will be shaggy; I used my hand to finish bringing it all together. Oil hands and turn the dough over in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest to rise for 4 hours (I put in the oven with the oven light on, that's the perfect temperature) Use a timer if you have an hour timer. You’ll know the dough is ready because there will be bubbles all over the surface.

    2. Lightly oil work surface and place the dough on it and fold it over on itself a couple of times, so it’s smooth. Cover loosely with the plastic wrap and let it rest while the oven heats up. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

    3. At the same time, put a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic; you could also use the crock from a Crockpot, if it has a lid that can sustain that temperature), lid and all in the 475° oven as it heats up. Make sure the pot and oven heat for 30 minutes while the dough rests.

    When timer goes off, carefully take the pot out of the oven. Carefully remove
    the lid. Oil your hands. Slide your hand under the dough and drop it into the
    pot seam side up. Shake the pot a little to distribute the dough, it will even
    out as it bakes.

    4. Cover the pot with its hot lid and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the
    lid and bake another 15 minutes uncovered until the loaf is beautifully browned.

    Cool the loaf on a rack for as close to an hour as you can stand it before you slice the bread.

    This is the BEST artisan bread.

    Be sure to use a timer. It makes a difference.

    Also: don't do what I did and set the glass lid on a wet surface. It will crack. Dry surfaces only, and heavy-duty hand and surface protection. Those pans are HOT.

  14. Karen, this sounds fabulous! I don't have any yeast, however--boo. But will plan on making this the next time I do a stew or soup. Yum!

  15. I love it when we share recipes here. Debs, this sounds divine, and I'm going to fix it. We were supposed to be at the beach this week, but plans changed (yes, I'm sad). Because we weren't supposed to be here, the larder is lacking and I need to get to the grocery, I'll look for the pork - Thank You!

    I do still clip, but one of the ways I now clip is to copy a recipe, which I'm doing with this one, and pasting it into Evernote. Evernote rocks for recipe clipping.

  16. As to keeping/clipping recipes: yes, still doing it, even though I don't use a fraction of them. And my "Recipe" bookmark section of my browser is the largest one!

    A few years ago I put together all the tried-and-true family favorites, mostly the ones the girls had been asking me to write down for them, and typed them into Word documents. That Christmas each of the three of my daughters received a CD full of recipes, plus a big, fat three-ring binder, plastic sleeves, and firm paper to print out the recipes they wanted. The front of the binder is a selection of photos of family gatherings.

  17. All right, Deborah, here it is. It's long. I admit that I occasionally omit browning the meat, and I usually these days cook it on top of the stove because it's easier to stir.

    Beef Goulash
    Yield: 6-8 servings

    • 4 lbs. chuck roast, trimmed of all visible fat (discard) and cut into 1” cubes
    • 4 lbs. yellow onions, cut in half and either sliced thinly or diced (doesn’t matter because they melt away)*
    • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1” chunks or 10-12 whole baby carrots
    • 20-25 cloves of garlic, minced (I use fresh, so if you substitute the jarred stuff or garlic paste use the equivalent amount)
    • 1 cup SWEET Hungarian Paprika (not HOT or SMOKED)
    • 2 tbsps tomato paste
    • 2 tbsps whole caraway seeds
    • 12 ounces crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced—stems removed if you like
    • 2 tbsp dried or fresh marjoram (fresh is better)
    • 3-4 fresh thyme twigs tied with marjoram (easier to remove)
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 4 cups organic beef stock (no sugar added)
    • olive oil and/or ghee as needed below
    • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional but recommended)
    • 15 or so drops of Tobasco sauce (also optional but recommended)
    • ¼ cup fresh chopped Italian parsley (optional)
    • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper as described below

    Preheat oven to 350°

    In a large saucepan, bring stock to boil, then reduce to simmer until stock has reduced to 3 cups liquid. Remove from heat and set aside.

    While stock is reducing, bring out a 7-quart dutch oven or equivalent (must be oven-safe). On medium, heat 2-3 tbsps of ghee and add mushrooms and sauté until all liquid has evaporated (about 8-10 minutes). Add ½ tsp salt to help sweat the liquid from the mushrooms, stirring frequently to avoid having mushrooms stick to the dutch oven. When liquid has evaporated, remove mushrooms and set aside.

    In the same dutch oven, add two-three tbsps of olive oil, add onions and sauté until lightly golden (10-12 minutes) but not caramelized (that tends to make the goulash too sweet). Add ½ tsp salt to help sweat the onions. When done, stir in the tomato paste to coat the onions. Remove onions from dutch oven and set aside.

    In the same dutch oven, add two-three tbsps of olive oil and, in batches, sear the meat until brown on all sides (three-five minutes for each batch).

    When the meat is all browned, return meat to dutch oven and add mushrooms, reduced stock, onions, carrots, garlic, paprika, bay leaves, caraway seeds, cayenne (if using), Tabasco (if using), and 1 tsp of salt.

    Cover and place in pre-heated oven for at least two hours, checking and stirring occasionally (maybe every 20-30 minutes).
    Check liquid level at two hours.

    Remove cover and reduce oven heat to 325° and continue cooking until beef chunks fall apart easily when poked with a fork (this could take another up to another hour). Check liquid levels. If the mixture appears too dry (unlikely), add a bit of water. If soupy, continue braising until liquid reduces and thickens to the consistency of a stew. (The important thing is that the meat must cook long enough for the connective tissue to break down so that the meat should practically melt in the mouth.)

    Remove bay leaves. Taste liquid. Add salt and or pepper to taste.

    Stovetop version: You can also bring to boil and simmer, nearly covered and stirring occasionally, for about the same amount of time—three hours. You may want to cook the sauce down or add in a tbsp of arrowroot or cornstarch mixed with one tbsp of water) to thicken it a bit. I like the sauce VERY thick.

    If this sounds too spicy for you, make adjustments, but I assure you that all of the flavors mellow with this much cooking time. Do NOT stint on the paprika or the garlic.

  18. I have a stand alone file in the kitchen that has my clipped and printed out recipes. I also have multiple file sets on my computer.
    Do I use them? Some, If often is a matter of remembering a recipe and then managing to find it!

  19. Nowadays my version of recipe clipping often involves a copy and paste to a section of Notes on my iPad, which worked beautifully until I neglected to protect my Notes with iCloud during a recent update. Gone....all gone! I can start over with your Autumn Pork Stew, thank you very much... I have all on hand but the pork. . Christopher's goulash recipe sounds yummy and when we finally cool off here in Southern Califormia, I will give it a go.
    Many years ago I was given my step-mother's set of Descoware, which has been expanded to include some Le Crueset lucky finds. My large braiser has had a good workout, thanks to my grandson, an excellent chef, who seems to use every pot, pan and utensil in my kitchen; a small price to pay for his excellent food. Not being a great cook myself, I do love the sight of my various colored pots and pans atop the range, especially when wielded by someone else!

  20. Hello. My name is Gigi and, yes, I have a little Le Creuset habit. I don't actually need any more pieces right now, so I get my thrills talking Debs into buying new stuff. I like this recipe but, since I'm cooking for one, I may try it with an extra-thick pork chop instead of the pork shoulder, hard apple cider instead of beer, and throw in some cranberries and oranges along with the apples. Maybe some Worcestershire sauce. While I do clip recipes, and also copy them into files on my computer, I'm mostly an improvisational cook. I go through my spice cabinet and fridge, pull out things that I think will taste good together, and give it a shot. If it turns out awful, I have dogs to clean up the mess, and there's always takeaway just down the street.

  21. Christoper, your goulash recipe sounds fantastic. I'm printing it out for my husband to try after Thanksgiving. (Ross is a paprika fan and he got very excited when I read, "One CUP sweet paprika.")

    Debs, I'm another Le Creuset fan. I got a dutch oven in "flame" as a wedding present in 1987 and I use it at least once a week. The only ironware that equals it are the cast iron skillets I inherited from my grandmother, which are of pre-WWII casting and are much superior to their modern versions.

    I don't clip anymore - I figure I can find it online. Ross, however, likes to clip and tear and save magazines, so it's just as well I read my recipes off my Kindle.

  22. I still clip recipes, mainly out of our newspaper and Southern Living. Once a year or so I cull the collection and get rid of anything I haven't made or any I wonder why the heck did I clip that! I have a lot of cast iron cookware, but I don't use it that much. Right this minute I am cooking Rhys's curried parsnip soup.

  23. The stew is in the baiser! Posting a pic on Facebook, and check back here later for the results.

    I used a two-thirds of a bottle of Angry Orchard cider (well, so I drank the first third. I had to see if it was good), and only a little over a cup of chicken stock. The pot was full, and, because I'm braising, not cooking with the lid cracked, it shouldn't need as much liquid. At least that's my theory. We shall see.

    I debated over the sugar, and in the end sprinkled over about a tablespoon of unrefined (Succanat.)

    I can tell you that the house is going to smell wonderful for the next couple of hours. And that chopping two onions was probably not the best idea post eye surgery...

  24. Deb, I've actually made this dish TWICE, alas not in Le Creuset but in my 6 qt. Caribbean Blue Lodge Dutch Oven. (got it on sale at Amazon several years ago and LOVE it.) Saved the recipe from DMN's Parade magazine, then went online and checked reviews, at epicurious I think, before trying it, and found some helpful tips. I also used pork butt, but floured the meat like I usually do for stews and such, (thickens the liquid and adds more flavor from the browned bits scraped up)so I didn't wipe out the pan before continuing. I taste and tweak as I go along when I cook, and since the apples and carrots were sweetish as they continued to cook I only added a pinch of brown sugar the first time I made this, and omitted it completely the next time. Also added marjoram and chopped flat-leaf parsley, and a smidge of crushed red pepper for more of a kick. First time I only had Heineken on hand so used that for the beer, next time was Negra Modelo, and the dark Mexican beer seemed a bit richer tasting. I think it would be great with hard cider! Thanks for reminding me of this recipe, I had forgotten all about it and will make it again soon. Hope you all enjoy it as much as we did.

    Oh, yes, I still clip and get ideas from newspapers, books and magazines, put most in my lucite cookbook holder, some in my ancient recipe card boxes (often forget about them til searching for something else) and I also have an old 3 ring binder with plastic sleeves that occasionally gets used. But most often lately I find recipes online, at food & other blogs I follow,(like here at JRW!) and Pinterest is great for leading you to new websites when you click on an appetizing picture!

  25. Yum, yum, yum! I've long ago parted company with my two sets of Le Creuset - the older I got, the heavier they got - but I'm thinking it's time to reinvest in some select pieces again. The blue is gorgeous! The pork recipe sounds fantastic. Follow up demanded. How was it?

  26. Debs:
    We followed your pork stew recipe except we added one tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, one diced leek, and substituted twelve ounces apple cider for the beer. After one hour of cooking, we added one-quarter cup Applejack. It was absolutely delicious; everyone enjoyed it [no leftovers here!] very much.
    [Yes, I clip recipes; no, I never look for them on Pinterest.]

    Here’s a similar recipe [a variation on an Emeril Lagasse chicken recipe] that’s a favorite in our family . . . it’s easy to put together and should work well in your braiser:

    1/2 pound bacon, chopped
    2 pounds boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces
    1/4 teaspoon allspice
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; salt to taste
    1 large sweet onion, chopped
    1 fennel bulb, chopped
    2 medium Gala apples, cored, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    2 tablespoons fennel seed
    1/2 cup Applejack [apple brandy], if desired
    2 cups no sugar added apple cider
    cooked orzo or rice

    Season chicken pieces with allspice, pepper, salt
    Cook bacon about five minutes; remove and set aside
    Add seasoned chicken to pan; cook until pieces begin to brown, about four minutes
    Add onion, fennel, leeks, apples, and fennel seed; cook with chicken about five minutes, stirring often
    Return bacon to pan; stir in cider and Applejack
    Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cook, about forty minutes or until chicken pieces are tender, adding more cider if necessary
    Serve over orzo or rice
    Serve with warm bread

  27. Thanks, everyone, for all your comments and recipes! Here's the link to a photo of our finished pork stew.

    Sorry I didn't have any parsley or appropriate garnish.

    Lynn in Texas was right; it was very soupy. I had to add flour to thicken, and it probably would have worked better to have floured the meat before browning. And so funny that we had the same recipe! I can tell from the formatting that mine was clipped from Parade Magazine in the Dallas Morning News, too.

    Overall verdict? Delicious. I suspect I would like my cider version better than the beer version, but maybe I'll try it again with beer and Lynn's tweaks. We have lots of leftovers, which is great for Thanksgiving week when you don't want to do a lot of non-TG cooking. And I'll bet, that like most stew/soup recipes, it's even better on reheating.

    Happy cooking, everyone!

    And in the meantime, I'm trying Christopher's goulash.

  28. Debs, what a coincidence, I had braised pork last night. I dissected the recipe in my mind as I ate. The only differences I detected were the pork cut and the alcohol. Mine was braised with burgundy, and the meat was luscious pork hocks. The broth cooked down great into a thick and lightly sweet gravy. The carrots have spoiled me for any other. Great leftovers, too.