Chinese Braised Pork

15 11 2011

Chinese Braised Pork Shoulder with baby bok choy and rice

It’s hard to believe but it’s already mid-November! Most of the farmers’ markets have wrapped up for the year and many of us have put away our grilling equipment. However, there’s no need to despair that summer is over. It’s now time for one of easiest and most delicious types of cooking: Braising!

There are a number of reasons to love braising:

It’s Cost Effective: Cooking inexpensive cuts of meat low-and-slow transforms them into meal that is tender and succulent. For less than $8.00, a pork shoulder can feed up to six people. As for equipment, all you’ll need is a pot with a heavy lid, a stovetop and an oven and you’re good to go.

It’s Easy: Once the initial prep work is done (which usually involves little more than some simple chopping and searing), the braise goes into the oven and does its thing. You can sit back, enjoy a glass of wine and a few hours later dinner will be ready.

It’s Delicious: The results achieved from low-and-slow cooking are always impressive. The meat becomes meltingly tender and the resulting juices can be reduced to make a silky, luxurious sauce.

It’s Versatile: The basic technique of braising (sear the meat, add aromatics and liquid, cover and cook on low heat) can be adapted to work with almost any kind of meat or vegetable. The finished product can usually be used in a number of ways, from taco fillings to pasta sauces.

Enameled cast iron pots are ideal for braising (left: Le Crueset risotto pot; right: Le Crueset 5.5 quart pot)

For more great braising ideas, check out my recipes for Braised Short Ribs, Steve’s Osso Bucco, Guinness Stew and Barolo-Braised Beef with Pappardelle.

Chinese Braised Pork

Serves 4 to 6

  • A 1.2 kilogram / 2.6 lb (approximately) pork shoulder blade roast
  • 3 Tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 points of a star anise (or more/less, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • A 1” piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 Tablespoons Shaoxing Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
  • ¾ cup soy sauce (preferably sodium-reduced)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 6 Tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch + 2 teaspoons cold water
  • Chopped green onions, for serving (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Sprinkle the roast liberally with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large (5.5 quart) enameled cast iron pot or other ovenproof pot with a lid, heat the oil on medium-high.
  4. Add the roast and brown on each side, about three to four minutes per side. Remove the roast from the pot and set aside.
  5. Add the diced carrots, celery and onion to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook for two minutes.
  6. Add the chopped garlic, star anise points, red pepper flakes and ginger. Continue to cook until the vegetables are softened, about three to four more minutes.
  7. Stir in the hoisin sauce until thoroughly mixed in and cook for another minute.
  8. Pour in the chicken stock, shaoxing wine (or sherry), soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add the brown sugar and stir until dissolved.
  9. Bring the sauce to a boil and return the pork shoulder to the mixture.
  10. Cover tightly and place in the oven for one hour.  After one hour, remove the star anise points if desired (it is quite strong). Return the pot for another hour.
  11. Check on the braise after the second hour. When done, it should be fork tender. Return to the oven for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until completely tender and the meat is easy to shred.
  12. Remove the pot from the oven and transfer to the stovetop. Carefully take the shoulder out of the liquid and set aside in a large bowl.
  13. Strain the remaining sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a saucepot. Bring the sauce to a boil and reduce for about 15 to 20 minutes.
  14. In a separate cup, combine 2 teaspoons cornstarch with 2 teaspoons cold water. Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved and free of lumps.  Pour into the strained and reduced braising mixture.
  15. Continue to boil for another five minute until the sauce begins to thicken slightly and is a bit glossy.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  16. To serve: Break off chunks of the pork shoulder with a fork. Pour the sauce liberally over the meat and garnish with green onions, if desired. It’s delicious over rice or noodles and accompanied by sautéed bok choy.

Note: The meat and sauce can be refrigerated overnight, making it easy to skim off any excess fat. The sauce will likely gel once cooled but will return to liquid once heated.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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Barolo-Braised Beef with Pappardelle

24 03 2011

Beef braised in barolo and served with pappardelle

As many of you know, I recently returned from a trip to Piedmont, Italy. The fantastic food and wine of the region has inspired me so I’ve been working on my own interpretation of recipes that reflect the foods of the region using ingredients that are accessible to North American cooks.

A popular dish in the Piedmont region is Brasato al Barolo, which is beef braised in Barolo wine. Unfortunately, Barolos can be quite expensive so you can easily substitute any inexpensive dry red wine, as long as it’s decent enough to drink.  I used a bottle of Cantina Terre del Barolo Barbera d’Alba 2008, which retails for $13.95 in Ontario. Luckily, the recipe only calls for two cups so you’ll have the rest of the bottle to enjoy with dinner!  I call for short ribs because they braise beautifully, resulting in a tender and flavourful dish.

To build flavour and add umami to the dish, I’ve used porcini powder.  Porcini are mushrooms that grow abundantly in Italy and are common in many Italian dishes. Unfortunately, fresh porcini are often difficult to find in North American stores because they are very perishable. However, many stores sell packages of dried porcini (I’ve seen them at gourmet stores, Italian specialty shops, some supermarkets and fruit and vegetable markets). It’s very easy to make porcini powder from dried mushrooms: just add a few to a mortar and use the pestle to grind them to a powder (if you don’t have a mortar-and-pestle, just crush them with a rolling pin or the flat side of a large knife). Extra powder can be kept in a sealed container and used in soups, stews or pasta sauces.

Porcini powder is easy to make with dried mushrooms and a mortar-and-pestle

A Note About Authenticity: Italians typically serve Brasato al Barolo with polenta instead of pasta (pasta is usually served as a separate first course).  However, egg noodles are delicious with the sauce, creating a rich and hearty main dish. Look for long, flat noodles made with eggs.  The beef will taste even better after a day or two so plan ahead and make extras!  Leftover shredded meat also makes a great filling for ravioli or agnolotti.

Pappardelle is delicious with wine-braised beef

Barolo-Braised Beef with Pappardelle

Makes about 6 servings

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 large meaty bone-in beef short ribs, each weighing about 10 to 12 ounces (300 to 340 grams)
  • 4 oz. (113 grams) slab bacon, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups Barolo, Barbera D’Alba or other dry red wine such as Côtes du Rhône
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup espresso or very strong coffee (equals about two shots of espresso)
  • 2 teaspoons porcini powder (made from about 6 dried mushrooms, see above)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. (500 grams) pappardelle or other flat egg noodles
  • Parmesan cheese to finish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Pat the short ribs dry with clean paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. In an enameled cast iron pot (5.5 quarts or larger) or oven proof pot with a lid, add the olive oil and heat on medium-high.
  3. Add the short ribs. Let the ribs brown, about three to four minutes per side. Turn the ribs so that all sides brown. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add the bacon to the pot and sauté until it’s beginning to crisp. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about five minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomato paste.  Add the flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan. Pour in the wine, beef broth and coffee.
  6. Add the herbs and the porcini powder, stirring to combine. Return the browned short ribs to the pot.
  7. Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and place the lid on the pot. Put the pot into a preheated oven (350F).  Cook for two hours.
  8. Check on the ribs after two hours. Stir to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom.  Return to the oven for another 30 minutes.
  9. Check on them again after 30 minutes – the ribs should be getting very tender and almost falling off the bone. Spoon some liquid over them (you can add another 1/2 cup of stock if the sauce is getting low).  Return to the oven for another 20 to 30 minutes or until they are fork-tender and falling off the bone.
  10. Remove the pot from the oven. Use tongs to extract the ribs from the sauce. Place them in a bowl and set aside. Strain the sauce into a large sauce pan, using a large spoon to press all of the liquid through a strainer. Heat the sauce on medium-low heat.  Spoon off as much fat from the top of the sauce as possible (you can also cool the sauce overnight – the fat will harden and can easily be removed).
  11. Place the cooked ribs on a cutting board. Remove any bones, fat and connective tissues and discard. Use two fork to shred the meat. Chop the meat into bite sized pieces and return the meat to the pot of simmering sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and heat through while preparing the pasta.
  12. Cook the pappardelle or other egg noodles according to package directions (usually about 6 minutes). Drain well. Toss the pasta with the braised meat and sauce and top with shaved parmesan cheese before serving.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.





Steve’s Osso Bucco

13 12 2010

Osso bucco (braised veal shanks) + risotto = the perfect cold weather meal.

It’s mid-December and in many areas the weather has taken a turn for the grim.  The days are short and dark and curling up with a cup of tea in front of the fire is a very appealing prospect.  What could be more delicious for dinner than a hearty braise, served over creamy risotto?

Any good butcher should be able to get veal shanks for you. Be sure to ask if you don't see any on display.

Osso bucco are Italian veal shanks and my friend Steve makes the best version I have ever had (it’s even better than the one I tried at Babbo restaurant in NYC!).  Luckily he gave me the recipe so now I can make it whenever I please.  It’s ideal for cold winter nights when you don’t want to fuss because it’s easy to put together and most of the cooking time is unattended.  Any good butcher should be able to get you veal shanks so ask for them if you don’t see them on display.

Tip: Don’t skip the gremolata – it brings all of the flavours together.

Steve’s Osso Bucco

Makes 6 servings

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 veal shanks (osso bucco)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium red onions, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
  • 3 cups (700 ml) chicken stock
  • 14 fl. oz. can San Marzano tomatoes with juice (or half of a large can)

Gremolata:

  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Tablespoons finely chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • The rind from 2 lemons (yellow part only), finely diced
  1. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt and pepper and stir to combine thoroughly.  Roll each of the veal shanks in the flour, making sure they are coated on all sides.  Shake off any excess flour and set the shanks aside on a plate.  Discard any leftover flour.
  2. In an enameled cast iron pot (5.5 quart or larger) or other large pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the veal shanks to the oil, making sure they are not crowded in the pot (work in batches if necessary).  The shanks will take about 3 to 4 minutes per side to brown.  Use tongs or a fork to turn them over.
  3. Remove the browned shanks from the pot and set aside.  Add the butter to the pot and heat until melted.  Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  4. Turn the heat back to medium-high and pour in the wine, chicken stock and tomatoes.  Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.  Return the veal shanks to the pot and use one of the following methods to finishing cooking:
  5. Stovetop Method: Cover and simmer for 2 to 4 hours on medium-low heat, until the meat is tender.  Do not let the mixture come to a boil.  OR use the Oven Method: Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover the pot and place in the oven, cooking for 3 hours or until the shanks are tender.
  6. To Make the Gremolata: In a small bowl, add the chopped garlic, parsley and lemon rind and stir to thoroughly combine.
  7. Stir the gremolata into the osso bucco sauce just before serving.
  8. Serve the shanks and sauce over risotto milanese.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired.

A Delicious Tip: The bone marrow at the centre of each cooked shank can be seasoned with sea salt and scooped out with a small spoon.  Serve with toast rounds if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Guinness Stew

17 03 2009

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day is a great day to celebrate all things Irish, whether you have Irish roots or not.  Guinness stew may be a bit of a cliché but it’s easy, delicious and very economical.  This recipe requires some time to prep the ingredients (there are a lot of vegetables to be chopped) but once everything is in the pot your work is pretty much done. If you’re entertaining, it tastes even better the day after you make it.  Serve with mashed potatoes, some soda bread and of course, a pint of Guinness.

This particular recipe is a bit of a hybrid – it’s a cross between a traditional Irish stew and a French Beef Bourguinon.  Pearl onions can sometimes be found with the frozen foods or you can peel fresh ones.  When selecting turnip, be sure to use actual turnip and not rutabaga, which is more bitter tasting and much harder to peel.  The chive sour cream is optional but it adds a nice finishing touch to the stew.

Guinness Stew with Chive Sour Cream

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1-1/2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1-1/2″ cubes
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 4 rashers of bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks (about 1-1/2 cups carrot pieces)
  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes (about 1-1/2 cups turnip)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 fl. oz. can whole tomatoes, including the juice
  • 440 ml / 15 fl. oz. Guinness beer (just under 2 cups of Guinness)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 10 medium sized white (button) mushrooms, halved
  • 2 cups whole peeled pearl onions (about 25 onions) – fresh or frozen
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large bowl, toss cubes of stewing beef with flour until all pieces are coated.  Set aside.
  2. Heat a stockpot or enameled cast iron pot on medium heat.  Add bacon and cook until crisp and browned, about 8 minutes.  Remove bacon bits with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Do not drain bacon fat from the pot.
  3. Add beef cubes, diced onions, celery and garlic to the bacon fat.  Sauté until the beef is browned and vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add carrot chunks, parsnips and turnip.  Stir mixture and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Add thyme and rosemary and stir until combined.
  5. Add worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, Guinness and beef broth to the pot.   Bring mixture to a simmer.
  6. Cover pot with a tight lid and simmer gently for one hour.  After an hour, remove cover, add pearl onions and mushrooms and return bacon bits to the stew.
  7. Continue to simmer uncovered for another 45 minutes.  The beef should be tender and the vegetables cooked through.  Serve with mashed potatoes and a dollop of chive sour cream.

Chive Sour Cream

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 4 Tablespoons finely chopped chives
  • Salt, to taste

Combine sour cream, chives and salt.  Stir until thoroughly mixed and serve with stew.

Guinness Stew with chive sour cream

Guinness Stew with chive sour cream

Bon Appétit and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!





Braised Short Ribs

11 12 2008

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Braising is the perfect cooking method for cold winter days.  It’s a technique that involves searing meat in oil, adding a small amount of liquid and cooking in a covered vessel at a lower temperature for a long period of time.  Tough cuts of meat become tender and juicy and a rich sauce develops.  Although preparing a slow cooked braise requires some planning ahead and prep work, once it’s in the oven you can sit back and relax for a few hours.  This dish is ideal for entertaining because it tastes even better the next day.  Just reheat and serve with your favourite side dishes.

This recipe has been adapted from the short rib recipe at Balthazar restaurant in New York City.  It’s a French brasserie serving up such classics as steak frites and mussels.  The ribs pair well with mashed potatoes and sautéed winter greens such as swiss chard.

The secret to success with this dish is to use the meatiest short ribs you can find.  If you can’t find ones that are large and marbled with fat, increase the number of ribs used and reduce the cooking time slightly.  The recipe makes enough for 4 but it can easily be doubled.  Plus, it’s so delicious, you’ll probably want to have some leftovers to enjoy!

Some great side dishes that pair well with the ribs:

Try to find large meaty short ribs for this dish

Try to find large meaty short ribs for this dish

Braised Short Ribs

Makes 4 servings – can easily be doubled

  • 2-1/2 lbs. (about 1 kg) beef shortribs – about 2 to 3 large meaty ribs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil such as canola or safflower
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup port
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 cups beef stock
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.   Cut each long rib in half and season with salt and fresh ground pepper.
  2. In an enameled cast iron pot, heat oil on medium heat.  Add the ribs to the pot and brown on all sides.  Once browned, remove from pot and set aside.
  3. Add carrots, onion, shallot, celery and garlic to the pot and sauté until softened and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Stir often to prevent burning.
  4. Stir tomato paste into vegetable mix.  Add flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another 2 minutes.
  5. Add wine, port and herbs.  Turn heat to medium-high and simmer for about 10 minutes, until mixture begins to reduce.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
  6. Add stock and return ribs to pot.  Cover tightly and put in the oven.  Cook for 3 hours, checking on them each hour to ensure nothing is burning at the bottom of the pot.  The meat should be very tender.
  7. Once the ribs are done, use tongs to remove the ribs from the sauce.  Place meat in a bowl and set aside.  With a mesh strainer or cheesecloth-lined colander, strain sauce into a saucepan, pressing on solids to extract all liquid.  Discard solids.
  8. Bring strained sauce to a boil and reduce for about 10 minutes.  Pour sauce over ribs and serve.
Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and a rosemary sprig garnish

Braised short ribs with mashed potatoes and a rosemary sprig garnish

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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