Thursday, January 21, 2010

Braise: Simple Wonderful Winter Dishes

Braise is the title of a book by Chef Daniel Boulud of renound NYC restaurants such as the 3 Michelin Star Daniel, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, and most recently DBGB Kitchen and Bar. Braising is perfect for cold winter days and is a cooking method that is great for busy parents trying to get a decent meal on the table while trying to juggle homework, baths, and family time. I am pretty sure most of my friends don't think they have time to serve a falling off the bone chicken dish to their families on a busy week night. Those of you who do braise on a regular basis will agree- and please do chime in here- that this one pot wonder of a meal is perfect for a busy cold winter night.

If I mentioned to you that I was going to do a braised tarragon chicken dish with a mustard sauce over taragon infused rice, you might think I was trying to get all fancy on a Wednesday night. Not so. This was a dish prepared by Chef Boulud as a guest on the Emeril Show. I was at the gym and I find it to be a special kind of torture to watch the Food Network while I try to burn off yesterday's excessive calories. Chef Boulud prepared this with rabbit but since I am dealing with 6 & 8 year olds, Lapin, was NOT going to do. I am pretty sure my daughter would burst into tears if I ever served her a bunny.

I have no proportions here so just go with the flow...

Chicken pieces ON THE BONE (Braising works very well with lower cost cuts of meat)
Heap of Flour on a plate
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
Mustard Seeds
White Wine
Chicken Stock (preferably a good one or home-made)
Cippolini Onions, Small Boiling Onions, or chopped yellow onions
Button Mushrooms
Parchment Paper
Enameled Cast Iron Pot or one with a Good Heavy Bottom

Creme Fraiche
Dry Mustard
Good Dijon Mustard

Whatever rice you like
Diced onions
Chopped tarragon

  • Preheat oven to 350. 
  • Cut parchment paper to shape of pot. Easiest way to do this is to trace the pot onto the paper. Cut a quarter sized hole out of the middle of your circular parchment paper.
  •  Drizzle pot with olive oil and heat over high heat.
  • Season Chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour and place in hot pot to brown.
  • Brown chicken on all sides.
  • Add mustard seeds, onions, tarragon and let heat up for a minute or two.
  • Add wine and stock so you have covered 3/4 of the ingredients with liquid.
  • Add mushrooms.
  • Cover with parchment and put in oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Once chicken is done, remove from pot and place on a platter.
  • Mix to combine about a cup of creme fraiche with a heaping spoonful of mustard and a teaspoon of dry mustard.
  • Add that to the liquid in your pot and stir until it is a thickened smooth sauce.
  • Use whatever rice you would like but first sautée diced onions in some olive oil, then add your rice.
  • Cook rice for about a minute before adding liquid.
  • Add chopped tarragon.
  • Add liquid and simmer until done.

The thing I like so much about this kind of dish is that it is just about the technique. The recipe, if you will, doesn't need to be specific or exact. You can change up your meats, your herbs, your flavors to create new dishes that fit your family. Our dinner was fantastic. So fantastic that we gobbled it up before I remembered I should have taken pictures for this post! The meat fell off the bone and was so tender and flavorful. No one but me in my family likes mustard. My husband especially. If I make sandwiches and dare to cut his in half with the mustard knife forget it- he won't eat it. So it was only after I saw him ladle his umpteenth spoonful of sauce onto his chicken and rice that I told him it was a mustard sauce.  Another small victory in my kitchen!

Because I have deprived you of photos today, I figured I'd give you a little something extra. While the chicken was braising last night (see, it seriously is easy) I decided to make a home-made granola. Yeah. How good is that over plain yogurt in the mornings!

I used this recipe from

3/4 cups pecans
1/2 cup natural almonds
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup sesame seeds (optional)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup, cane syrup or honey, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup dried blueberries or raisins
preparation Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large shallow baking sheet with foil. Spread the pecans and almonds on the sheet and roast for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Transfer the nuts to a board, let cool and chop the nuts. Set aside.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F. Pour the oats and sesame seeds, if using, in a mound on the same baking sheet. Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave; stir in the maple syrup and salt and drizzle on top of the oats. Stir well with a rubber spatula and then spread out the oats in an even layer.

Bake the oats for 30 minutes, stirring once with the spatula halfway through, until the oats are lightly colored. Let cool; the mixture will crisp as it cools. Add the dates, blueberries, and reserved nuts and toss.