Monday, March 21, 2011

In praise of braising: Early spring menu + giveaway!

Asparagus Spears by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


  With a glimpse of pale purple gray on the empty corner lot by my daughter's school, I know that spring is here - wisteria's annual show, gnarly and regal, is the harbinger. The glories of vernal produce will soon be known at the farmer's market - the local strawberries and tender greens, tiny new potatoes and baby Vidalia onions. To my mind, the official sign of spring is cheap and plentiful asparagus, grown, if not in Georgia, at least the Western hemisphere.

It's difficult for me to just jump right into the warm season - I carry a sweater with me when I leave the house, because you just never know when the weather will turn. And I still employ my Dutch oven for hearty oven-braised dishes like chicken legs cooked for hours with bacon, mushrooms and carrots. Do you braise? It's not a word to fear - it just means meat and/or vegetables nestled in a dish, covered with liquid such as broth or wine, and cooked until the meat falls apart and the vegetables are tender. I make this chicken dish frequently through the fall, winter and spring because it's simple and filling and just lingers in the oven, ready for the family to gather around the table. I filled out the plate with my go-to brown rice pilaf, mashed potatoes would be a good substitute, ready to soak up the plentiful juices from the braising dish. And asparagus, who can forget asparagus, skillet-roasted with butter and toasty shallots.

This is one of those dishes that works well for a carpool mom with a slow cooker. I use a Dutch oven and the convection feature on my oven to simulate the slow cooker, but if you have a crockpot, just assemble the ingredients ahead of time, place in the stoneware and cook for about 4 hours. If you haven't invested in a Dutch oven like Le Creuset, check them out. An enameled cast iron pot like Le Creuset will give you a lifetime of lovely braises and stews.This is my cooking timetable: after lunch, I brown the chicken, chop the vegetables and get the sauce prepared and place all in a Dutch oven. The dish will braise in the oven for a few hours, yielding fall-off-the-bone chicken and rich broth.

Braised chicken legs with carrots, bacon and mushrooms by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


Braised Chicken Legs with Carrots,
Mushrooms and Bacon



4 slices bacon, sliced into narrow strips

6 skin-on chicken legs (thighs may be substituted)

1 onion, peeled, halved and sliced into wedges

1 (4-ounce) package sliced cremini mushrooms

4 carrots, peeled, sliced lengthwise and into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup white wine or vermouth

Salt and pepper to taste

Sprig of fresh thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of dried if you're not a gardener

2 cups chicken broth, or more if needed

1. In a skillet set over medium heat, brown bacon until crispy and cooked through. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Pour off the bacon fat into a metal bowl and return two tablespoons fat to the pan. Brown the chicken pieces, making sure to season as you go, turning once each side is sufficiently brown (remember that more brown = more flavor). This takes about a half hour to do properly.

2. Heat the oven to 300. Have a Dutch oven (or slow cooker) on standby. As the chicken pieces are thoroughly browned, place them in the main cooking vessel with the chopped carrots and cover with lid. When all chicken is removed, saute the onion and season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and continue the saute until the shrooms are brown and toasty. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, stirring and scraping thoroughly. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Pour the broth over the chicken and carrots, add the thyme and cooked bacon pieces. The goal is for the chicken pieces to sit in a bathtub of broth, so if the sauce doesn't come up to nearly the top of the chicken and vegetables, add more broth, if you have it, or water.

Braised chicken sealed with parchment by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


3. Tear a piece of parchment paper just large than the circumference of pan. Crumple it and place on the top of the liquid. Put the lid on the Dutch oven and place in real oven, or slow cooker in its cooking unit and let simmer for at least two hours, preferably up to four. I cook on convection at 300 for about three hours, any longer and I reduce the temp to 250. Check every 45 minutes to an hour to make sure the liquid level is sufficient; make adjustments if necessary.

Brown rice and shallots by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


The chicken and vegetables are a fine supper all alone, but I like to add a starch, like brown rice pilaf, and a green vegetable, because I'm the mom.

Brown Rice Pilaf

In a nonstick skillet with a lid, melt one tablespoon butter and add one tablespoon olive oil, cook over medium heat. Saute one chopped onion and one chopped celery stalk until translucent (for the onion, until soft for the celery). Add two cups brown rice and stir. Add four cups chicken broth, or a combination of chicken broth and water, and stir. Season with salt and pepper, place lid on pan and let cook for about a half hour. Check on the liquid level every five minutes or so.

Asparagus spears by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books


Sauteed Asparagus with Shallot

In a skillet over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add one shallot, chopped, and cook until soft. Take a bunch of asparagus, or if feeding just a few, a handful of asparagi, and cut off the woody ends. Slice remainders into 3-inch pieces. Add to skillet and toss in oil and shallot until bright green and crisp. Serve immediately. Save the asparagus scraps to make creamy asparagus soup.


Braised chicken leg with carrots, mushrooms and bacon; brown rice pilaf and sauteed asparagus.
Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

And now for a giveaway!

CSN, which sells Le Creuset Dutch ovens at Cookware.com, will give a $50 gift code to a member of the A Cook and Her Books family. Before I tell you how to win, I need to remind you that only entries with valid email addresses will be eligible to win. There are four ways to get an entry in the giveaway. Each person may accumulate four chances to win by doing the following:

1. Leave a comment on this entry.

2. Subscribe by email or RSS to A Cook and Her Books (see the boxes on the right). Leave another comment on this post telling me that you subscribed.

3. Become a fan of A Cook and Her Books on Facebook. If you're already a fan, thank you! Just leave another comment telling me that you're a fan.

4. Follow me on Twitter, @acookandherbook (no "s"). If you already follow, thank you! Just leave another comment telling me that you're following.

In summary, you have four chances to win a  $50 gift code from CSN stores. The deadline for entries is midnight on March 31. I will draw a winner using random.org on Friday, April 1. This contest is for U.S. and Canada residents only. Disclaimer: CSN is offering the gift code and I'm not compensated in any way. My opinions are my own. Thanks for being a part of this exciting giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone for participating and I look forward to more great giveaways in the future!


61 comments:

Grace said...

Looks wonderful, Lucy! I am much in need of one of those Le Creuset dutch ovens.

Judy said...

I am already a subscriber to your wonderful newsletter via RSS. Would love to win the Le Creuset dutch oven so I could make the braised chicken dish in it - rather than in a slow cooker. And....I have fresh asparagus in the garden. How good would that be?

Ashley said...

I love csn and could use some new cookware.

hewella1 at gmail dot com

Judy said...

I receive your wonderful newsletter by RSS Feed. I would love to win the Le Creuset dutch oven so I could make the Braised Chicken dish in it rather than in a slow cooker. And....I have fresh asparagus in the garden. Now how good is that?

Shel said...

It looks so yummy! I adore my crockpot; even the cheapest meats come out so tender when I use it. My daughter adores my crockpot chicken paprikash.

shel704 at aol dot com

Shel said...

I'm an email subscriber
shel704 at aol dot com

Shel said...

Facebook follower: Michelle Hudak
shel704 at aol dot com

Shel said...

Twitter follower @auntiethesis
shel704 at aol dot com

The Knapps said...

I would love to put this towards the caribbean color Le Creuset French Oven...thanks :)

danielleaknapp at gmail dot com

bbqchick said...

Always need more LeCrueset! We call my large blue one Big Bertha!
Am a friend on FB and I subscribe to the newsletter.
Thanks

bbqchick said...

Always need more LeCrueset. We call my large blue dutch oven Big Bertha! Am a friend on FB and get the newsletter.
Thanks

Domestic Diva said...

Thanks for the chance.

lovelydomesticdiva (at) gmail (dot) com

Domestic Diva said...

I subscribe via gfc reader.

lovelydomesticdiva (at) gmail (dot) com

Julie Quinn said...

Yum, yum, yum. This looks delicious and will be added to the menu this week. Hope the girls will eat it. We shall see! Don't have a Dutch oven, but do have a crockpot and I love making dinner in it. So much easier than trying to get dinner together, do homework, get baths and spend time together all during that busy time after school.

Julie Quinn said...

Just subscribed via email!

Julie Quinn said...

Already a fan on Facebook. :-)

btw - think you have my email, but just in case julie@quinn.net

Julie Quinn said...

following on Twitter - not on much usually just check on what the Falcons are saying at game time, but I'll check you out. ;-)

Lynda Del. said...

I'd get the Cuisinart Panini/Sandwich maker.
lyndadawinda1074 at yahoo dot com

Lynda Del. said...

I’m a subscriber via RSS Feed (Google Reader).
lyndadawinda1074 at yahoo dot com

Lynda Del. said...

I LIKE you on Facebook. ID: Lynda Castillo
lyndadawinda1074 at yahoo dot com

Lynda Del. said...

I follow you on twitter. ID: Lyndadawinda
lyndadawinda1074 at yahoo dot com

Mami2jcn said...

Sounds great! Thanks very much for the chance!

mami2jcn at gmail dot com

Mami2jcn said...

I like you on Facebook with my username Mary Happymommy.

mami2jcn at gmail dot com

Linda said...

Hi Lucy, I need a Le Creuset dutch oven! I would follow you on FB and Twitter if I were on those, but alas...
Happy Spring!
Linda

Anash said...

mushrooms and bacon- what a great combination!!
Thanks for this splendid giveaway

anashct [at] yahoo [dot] com

Anash said...

I subscribe via google reader anashct at gmail dot com

anashct [at] yahoo [dot] com

Anash said...

I follow you on twitter @ anashct
email: anashct [at] yahoo [dot] com

AubreyLaine said...

Thanks for the giveaway!
aubreyfick@yahoo.com

AubreyLaine said...

I follow you on Facebook
aubreyfick@yahoo.com

katychick said...

i want to buy my son the toy story desk
thanks
tcogbill at live dot com

katychick said...

i get your emails
tcogbill at live dot com

Claudia said...

Thank you for the opportunity to win
nclaudia 25 at yahoo dot com

Claudia said...

I am a new email subscriber
nclaudia 25 at yahoo dot com

Claudia said...

new fan on facebook (claudia n)
nclaudia 25 at yahoo dot com

Claudia said...

I am a new twitter follower (@dealsfan32)
nclaudia 25 at yahoo dot com

Dee said...

thanks so much for the chance! :)

what an awesome giveaway!

deeg131 at gmail dot com

Dee said...

I subscribe via google reader :)

deeg131 at gmail dot com

Dee said...

I like you on fb as Dee G

deeg131 at gmail dot com

Sharon said...

Beautiful chicken dish, one that I will try in my slow cooker (oh to own a Le Creuset! one day perhaps ...) Thanks for the entry!

Sharon said...

I subscribed to your RSS feed.

Sharon said...

I liked your beautiful facebook page (Rust Hawk).

Sharon said...

I am following you on twitter (rusthawk). Thank you!

Debbie said...

I love CSN and cold spend hours looking at their cookware.com site.
fourkidsrgreat(at)gmail.com

Debbie said...

Subscribe by rss to google reader.
fourkidsrgreat(at)gmail.com

Debbie said...

Liked you on fb - suburbsanity.
fourkidsrgreat(at)gmail.com

Debbie said...

Twitter follower @suburbsanity.
fourkidsrgreat(at)gmail.com

Gina @ the Crave to Save said...

Thanks for the wonderful giveaway! I could spend hours looking at all of the cookware CSN has to offer!

gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

Gina @ the Crave to Save said...

I am an RSS Subscriber!
gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

Gina @ the Crave to Save said...

I follow you on twitter @crazyitalian0
gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

Gina @ the Crave to Save said...

I like you on FB "Crave to Save"
gina.m.maddox (at) gmail (dot) com

Beth said...

Yeah! And I follow you on Twitter and Facebook. Boo: I think I just sent you an email and I meant to just post a comment. Clearly need more coffee and sugar to function in the real world.

purplelover04 said...

i would to own one from Le Creuset dutch oven.

purple_lover_04 at msn dot com
thanks for the giveaway.

purplelover04 said...

im following on goggle following reader

purple_lover_04 at msn dot com

purplelover04 said...

fan on fb erica best

purple_lover_04 at msn dot com

purplelover04 said...

im following u @purplelover04 purple_lover_04 at msn dot com

edmontonjb said...

It would be great ot go on a little shopping spree!

dftrew(at)gmail(dot)com

edmontonjb said...

I follow you on twitter as edmontonjb

dftrew(at)gmail(dot)com

Liz said...

Thanks for the giveaway! I love CSN!

eemoody77 at gmail dot com

Liz said...

I like you on Facebook!

eemoody77 at gmail dot com

Liz said...

I follow you on Twitter! @FakeGradSchool

eemoody77 at gmail dot com

Jean said...

To be honest, I could eat this all year long. I'm not the best at seasonal eating--I love braised dishes all the time. This is a perfect example of one I would enjoy.