Monday, March 4, 2013

Carpool Wars - Battle: Braise!

When I took my pro chef class, I learned the following:

Braising is a cooking technique, seen often in French cuisine, combining moist and dry heat. It uses heat, time, and moisture to break down the tough connective tissue, collagen, in meat, making it an ideal way to cook tougher cuts. Most often the meat is quickly dry seared in a hot pan, then transferred to a pot with liquids to cook, long and slowly, until the meat is utterly and completely delicious.

Carpool Wars - Battle: Braise! 
A long-simmering summary.

It turns out that I have been braising this post*.

Back in December 2012 (!), the carpool moms had another knock-down, all-out, no-holds-barred, gourmet dinner throw-down.  We raised the stakes by adding a new category, Best Wine Pairing.  We required complementary side dishes.

We braised our butts off.

That memorable evening, meat was falling off of bones all over the place.  Rich, long-simmered sauces were ladled over risotto and silky smooth potatoes and creamy, cheesy polenta.  In the midst of all the heartiness, a gorgeous green salad appeared**.

Then much incredible wine was consumed, and I kind of lost track of the details.  But there was definitely a warm apple tart with cinnamon ice cream in there somewhere.

The contenders:

 Christy F's Asian Style Beef Short Ribs, with Melted Leeks and Creamy Mashed Potatoes.  Ginger, garlic, soy and scallions in the sauce, perfectly tender beef, and the barely caramelized leeks went perfectly with the luxurious spuds.  Wow.
Recipe here.

The short ribs were paired with a gorgeous vintage wine from the host's collection

 My Braised Lamb Shanks with Gremolata and Baked Polenta.  The lamb cooked for hours in tomatoes, onions, stock and wine, with a little fennel and rosemary.  Very tasty.  And the creamy polenta with a slightly toasted top crust was killer.  This was the cover recipe from the October issue of Bon Appetit, so this is actually a double theme post:  Carpool Wars and Cook My Mailbox!
Recipe here.

The lamb was paired with a Biale Petite Syrah, Royal Punishers, one of my all-time favorite wines***.  My friend had just given me this bottle, and I couldn't think of a better reason to crack it open.

Christy D.'s Veal Osso Buco with Saffron Risotto.  Can you say decadent?  I thought you could.  Her sauce was deeply flavored, with cloves, bay leaves, sage and thyme.  I loved this one.
Recipe here.

A Shiraz married with the veal.  They were quite well matched, if I do say so myself.

The judges ate, and drank, and considered.

In the end, our hostess' Short Ribs (justifiably) ruled!  My wine pairing received accolades, and Christy D's presentation once again impressed****.   As much as everyone loved Battle: Brunch and Battle: Taco, the consensus was that we'd outdone ourselves yet again.

But that might have been the wine talking.
And the apple tart.

Fresh Apple Tart

by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, defrosted but still well-chilled
  • 4-5 tart crisp apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs. almond paste, finely grated (optional)
  • 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, diced
  • A little flour, for rolling out puff pastry

Preheat your oven to 400.

Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper or a silpat to a thickness of about 1/4-
1/3 of an inch. Transfer sheet to a baking sheet and set aside.

Arrange apple slices in three rows on top of the pastry, leaving a decent sized border all around.

Place sugar, cinnamon and almond paste in a medium bowl, and toss with a fork to combine. Sprinkle this mixture generously over the apples, but try not to get any on the edges.

Dot with the butter dice.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until the edges are puffed and golden brown.

If you like, make an apricot glaze:
Combine 1/3 c. apricot jam with 1-2 Tbs. of Calvados liquor, brandy, apple juice or water in a small saucepan over low heat, and stir until smooth and slightly warm. Brush gently over the tart when it comes out of the oven.

Serve with homemade***** or purchased ice cream.

* I quickly put the heat on my fellow contestants for their recipes, uploaded my photos, and then just let everything stew, long and slowly, until any thought of cohesion in this missive had broken down, and the whole thing was utterly and absurdly tardy.  To make up for it, the full slideshow is below:

** And there was much rejoicing (at least among the parents).
*** I'm pretty sure I'd only had one glass before attempting to take this photo.  My husband bumped my elbow or something.  Really.
**** We were down one contestant, who was home ill that evening.  She'll be back for Battle: Bacon!
***** To make my vanilla ice cream into cinnamon ice cream, swap in three cinnamon sticks for the vanilla bean in the original recipe.

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