Meat is expensive these days. Just go to your local butcher or supermarket and take a look at the prices. You’ll be shocked. But there are a couple off ways to save.
Another option is buying cheaper cuts of meat. The trade-off is that it’s not as tender and takes longer to cook.
One method that is great for tough cuts of meat is braising. It works well with beef, chicken, fish and/or vegetables. And you can braise in a slow cooker, large saute pan or the most-often-used cooking vessel for braises, a Dutch oven.
Braising is a cooking technique in which the main ingredient is seared, or browned in fat, and then simmered in liquid on low heat in a covered pot. Whether you choose to use the oven or stove top, the results generally are tender and full of flavor.
One popular dish that uses a braising technique is coq au vin. Most recipes call for a chicken, red wine, bacon, mushrooms, onions and often garlic.
In my recent readings, I came across a coq au vin recipe from author Michael Ruhlman. The recipe comes from ‘Ruhlman’s Twenty,” a thick book that contains 20 techniques, 100 recipes and a Cook’s Manifesto designed to take your cooking to the next level.
The 20 techniques are in chapters, including one on braising. Ruhlman likes to braise using water as the liquid because he says it creates flavors you wouldn’t otherwise have. Here’s his recipe, which I hope to try soon.
Coq au Vin
4 chicken legs
4 ounces bacon strips, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 tablespoons flour
1 carrot, left whole
8 shallots, peeled, left whole
2 bay leaves
½ pound white mushrooms, quartered
1½ cups red wine
2 tablespoons honey
Freshly ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, grated lemon zest
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place chicken legs on a large baking sheet; roast, 20 minutes. Remove from oven; reduce oven temperature to 325.
Meanwhile, put the bacon, onion and garlic in a large ovenproof skillet or Dutch oven. (The pan should be large enough to hold the chicken legs in one layer.) Add 2 three-finger pinches of salt and enough water just to cover ingredients. Cook over high heat until the water has cooked off, 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook, stirring, until the onion has begun to caramelize, 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the flour; stir.
Nestle the chicken, skin-side-down, into the onion mixture in one layer. Tuck the carrot, shallots and bay leaves into the pan; add mushrooms. (The mushrooms can rest on top if there isn’t enough room in the pan; they will cook down.) Add the wine and honey; season with pepper to taste. Add enough water to reach three-fourths the way up the chicken. Heat to a simmer over high heat; slide the pan, uncovered, into the oven.
Cook 20 minutes; turn chicken pieces skin-side up. Stir ingredients to make sure they cook evenly. Taste the sauce; add salt if needed. Return to oven; cook until chicken is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven; just the skin side of the chicken should be above the liquid. Broil the chicken until the skin is crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove and discard carrot and bay leaves. Serve chicken in shallow bowls garnished with parsley and lemon zest.
Yield: Serves 4.