Friday, November 9, 2012

singing its braises

by Lisa

Last night, some magic occurred. I placed some wedges of cabbage in a pan, sprinkled over it carrots and onions, and poured some olive oil and broth over it and let it braise.

It only took reading two paragraphs of Molly Stevens* to be convinced to plan to braise the very next meal I would make.

We all know that braised food tastes amazing. But the science behind it we rarely think about. But Stevens' description of the cycle of flavor evaporating, condensing, and stewing again helped explain how this method of cooking transforms a dish, giving it the depth of flavor unique to braising.

I knew I needed to make her cabbage recipe - so rustic and delightful, one of those dishes that you know tastes a million times better than it looks.

I had gotten home early from work yesterday, so David and I walked to the store, like Parisians - only, we were carrying a backpack - and gathered the ingredients for this homely meal. (Note to self: Walking to the store and knowing you have to carry everything back on foot is built-in protection against Buying Everything In Sight.)

Although this dish on its own would probably satisfy me (I could probably eat the whole thing myself), I knew that Kenny would want some meat, so we got some pork chops as well.

And since the braise takes two hours, I had some time on my hands and decided to make chocolate cornstarch pudding for dessert (another post for another time). You should too. Rustic plus trashy-classic is always a success. I suppose it's comforting.

Truly, the art of uncomplicated cooking is so restorative.

(Aside: I also hope to make this caramel pudding soon. Thanks, Stephie!)

The World's Best Braised Cabbage
adapted from Molly Stevens' All About Braising

2 lb head of green cabbage (it's not that big looking, but try to not go over in weight), cut into wedges (keep the core to hold the wedges together)
1 large yellow onion, sliced thick (this part was the best - they get so caramelly - so I would maybe even throw in two)
1 carrot, sliced into coins
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use your best)
1/2 cup chicken broth, or water (I increased this from the original recipe)
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 325. Lay cabbage wedges in a 9x13 glass baking dish (or a gratin pan if you have one). Try to make it fit in one layer. Scatter onion and carrot over cabbage, then drizzle olive oil and broth, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 2 hours, turning the cabbage over once at the halfway point, adding more broth if dry. Before serving, remove foil and raise oven to 400, allow to brown slightly, about 15 minutes.

*Her book is perfectly titled All About Braising. Now I just want to use that phrase, all the time. "I'm 'all about braising!' What?! I am!"