Fall braise allows for relaxing day at the stove

Cynthia Stone
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What is it about this time of year that sends us to our kitchens and keeps us there to enjoy a day of puttering around, cooking things slowly and with all the patience in the world? I don’t know if it’s the cold weather or the dark evenings, or maybe it’s just thinking about the frantic pace that will accompany the soon-to-descend-on-us holiday season, but by November, I’m sure enjoying the luxury of a low and slow day at my stove.

Cider braised pork shoulder with caramelized onions

Braising elevates a cheap old cut of pork to gourmet status. This recipe is relatively inexpensive, easy, and fills your house with the most wonderful aroma you can imagine.

1 bone-in fresh pork shoulder, about 2 kg

6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved lengthwise

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 large onions, halved lengthwise then cut into thick slices

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1 large apple, peeled and diced

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 cup each apple cider and chicken broth

Trim away most of the layer of fat from the roast then cut 12 deep slits all over the meat with a thin-bladed knife. Push one piece of garlic deep into each of the slits. Rub salt and pepper vigorously all over, then brown all sides in oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Remove pork and set aside. Add a little more oil if the pot is dry. Add onions and celery. Fry over medium until golden brown, fully caramelized and quite soft — about 10 minutes. Stir in apple and cook another minute or two. Add bay leaves, thyme, cider and broth. Return pork, cover tightly and bake at 300 F for three to four hours, until pork is falling-apart tender. Remove meat and set aside. Simmer liquid uncovered, until it is reduced to a thick sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve with buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

Asian-style braised moose

Tastes from the Far East go very well with moose, believe it or not. This recipe enhances rather than masks the natural game flavour, and is worth the time. It will work equally as well with caribou. Both broths are needed in this recipe — all beef is overwhelming but all chicken does not contribute the richness that moose requires. You can leave out the red wine or substitute a small squeeze of lemon juice but a hit of acidity is crucial.

4-5 lb. moose roast, preferably with bone in

1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder

1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

3 tbsp. brown sugar

1 cup each low-sodium beef and chicken broth

1 cup dry red wine

1 whole garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled but left whole

1 thumb-size piece of fresh gingerroot, minced

1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (more or less to taste)

1 cinnamon stick

1/4 cup soy sauce

4 green onions, chopped

Dry the meat with paper towels and rub vigorously with Chinese five-spice powder, salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature for half an hour or so. Heat oil in Dutch oven until quite hot then stir in brown sugar. Cook together a few minutes until sugar melts completely into the oil. Carefully add the meat to the oil and sugar mixture, rolling it to coat thoroughly while it starts to fry. Add both broths, wine, garlic, ginger, chili flakes and cinnamon to the pot. Cover tightly and bake at 300 F for three hours. Add soy sauce and bake another hour. Remove meat from pot and set aside. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer until it is slightly thickened. Remove cinnamon stick, mash garlic and any other solids into the sauce, and pour over moose. Sprinkle green onions all over the top and serve with rice.

Italian braised Sunday dinner

If you’ve ever been invited for Sunday dinner by an Italian family you know what I mean by Sunday gravy — that thick, slow-cooked tomato sauce used to braise different types and cuts of meat. This braise releases tons of flavour to enhance any big pasta — I would reach for the penne or rigatoni, but use whatever you enjoy. If you have one of those giant slow cookers, here’s your chance to put it to good use.

2 tsp. vegetable oil

2 lbs. hot Italian sausage (or sweet sausage if you prefer)

3 onions, coarsely chopped

1 whole bulb garlic, peeled and chopped

2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1 small (6-oz.) can tomato paste

1 cup dry red wine

2 28-oz. cans diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1 round steak, about 2 lbs., quartered

4 thick pork chops, bone in

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or frying pan until smoking hot. Add sausages and cook until browned and some of the fat is rendered out. Remove and set aside. If you have a lot of fat save about two tsp. and discard the rest. Add onions and cook until starting to brown. Add garlic, Italian seasoning and oregano. Stir in tomato paste and cook another five minutes, until paste starts to change colour — don’t worry if it sticks to the bottom a little. Stir in wine, diced tomatoes and bay leaves and bring to a simmer. If using a slow cooker, you can prepare to this point the night before. Refrigerate the sauce right in the liner and add the meat in the morning. Push the sausages, steak and chops into the sauce and cover tightly. Bake at 275 F for about eight hours, or place in a slow cooker for eight hours over medium heat. Lift out the meat and remove any bones. Cut sausages into bite-sized chunks. Pull pork and beef into shreds or coarsely chop. Return meat to pot along with pepper and parsley; add salt if needed, stir in cooked pasta, and serve.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, N.L., A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

Geographic location: Far East

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