Preparing Meditarreanean and Dutch dishes red wine and citrus braised duck legs and Compote of fennel with onion, pancetta and currants with cooks Josiah Citrin, Paula Wolfert
In the 1960s and '70s thrifty housewives cooked tough cuts of meat and a few potatoes at a low temperature for endless hours in Dutch ovens, confident they would serve their husbands a pot roast so tender it would put smiles on their faces when they got home.
Today, chefs feature braised meat, poultry and fish on elegant prix fixe menus. And home cooks now braise main courses when they entertain: Once it goes in the oven, they can forget about it until the timer goes off.
The Michelin two-star Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif., features braised veal cheeks, pork bellies, lamb shanks and short ribs cooked to perfection in a heavy cast-iron Dutch oven. Across town in Culver City, Akasha restaurant serves red wine and citrus braised duck legs in "green" stainless steel cookware. And cookbook author Paula Wolfert braises Mediterranean and Moroccan dishes — and her favorite tarte Tatin — in flameproof ceramic cookware.
Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse, practices the art of braising and has pondered each step to perfection. As he explained, "Start with a beautiful cut of meat, pat it dry, lightly salt and pepper it, then sear it at a high temperature to lock in the flavor, add herbs, garlic, vegetables and liquid, then place a tight-fitting lid on the pot, transfer it to a very low oven and cook it from two to six hours, depending on the cut. When the meat is fork tender, deglaze it with wine, surround it with roasted vegetables and … voila."
Citrin also braises vegetables and fruits in their own juices. He loves slow-cooking big chunks of carrots in cumin, lemon juice, chicken stock and carrot juice. Sliced apples get cinnamon, cloves and apple juice. Pears are combined with rosemary and pear juice. All are braised in the oven at the same low temperature for 45 minutes to 11/2 hours, or until tender. This produces a beautiful sweet flavor, he said.
Wolfert has been braising in clay for 50 years, from the time she lived in Morocco in the 1960s. The author of "Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking," she discovered that clay produces a more natural, earthy, richer tasting dish. Her unglazed and glazed clay pot collection numbers in the hundreds, giving her the luxury of cooking in pots that are dedicated to just one dish, such as a duck confit.
This produces amazing flavors, she said. Every time the dish is cooked in the same pot it becomes more densely flavored.
Red wine and citrus braised duck legs
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 2 1/2 hours
Makes: 4 servings
Adapted from a recipe by Akasha Richmond, chef-owner of Akasha in Culver City, Calif.
4 large whole duck legs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
3 shallots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
6 sprigs each: fresh thyme, fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 cup red wine
2 oranges, peeled, coarsely chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1. Pat duck legs dry with paper towel; sprinkle duck with salt and pepper to taste. Heat oil in a Dutch oven large enough to hold the legs in one layer over medium-high heat; add duck, skin side down. Cook duck until skin is a deep golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Turn; cook 2 minutes. Transfer duck to a plate.
2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Add the garlic, shallots and onions to the Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Add thyme, rosemary and bay leaves; cook, stirring 3 minutes. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add wine to the Dutch oven; heat to a boil, scraping up brown bits. Cook until reduced to a syrup, about 10 minutes. Add half of the orange pieces. Return duck legs, skin sides up, to Dutch oven; add broth and juice. Heat mixture to a simmer; cover. Braise in the oven 20 minutes. Lower heat to 300 degrees. Braise 45 minutes; check to see if it needs more liquid. Braise until very tender, about 1 hour.
3. Pour pan liquid into a fat separator or skim off the fat. Pour liquid through a strainer into the Dutch oven, pressing hard on solids. Boil liquid until reduced by one-third and slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add remaining orange pieces. Simmer sauce until fruit is softened, about 5 minutes. Serve duck legs on a platter; pass the sauce.
Per serving: 376 calories, 36% of calories from fat, 15 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 105 mg cholesterol, 28 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 979 mg sodium, 5 g fiber
Compote of fennel with onion, pancetta and currants
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Rest: 2 hours
Makes: 4 servings
From "Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking" by Paula Wolfert, and inspired by a recipe created by chef Christian Etienne of Restaurant Christian Etienne in Avignon, France.
2 fennel bulbs, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, cut into shreds
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dried currants or raisins
1/4 teaspoon each: salt, freshly ground pepper
1. Place fennel, onion, pancetta, olive oil, currants, salt and pepper in a glazed earthenware or Dutch oven. Cover with a sheet of crumpled parchment and a lid. Cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until contents are reduced to about 1 cup, 1-2 hours.
2. Remove cover, raise the heat to medium. Gently fry the mixture until it is golden brown and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Let the compote stand at room temperature for a few hours to further blend the flavors. Reheat the compote to lukewarm just before serving.
Per serving: 178 calories, 54% of calories from fat, 11 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 18 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 207 mg sodium, 5 g fiberCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times