Braise then Graze

This year, I’ve been known to braise then graze. Most often, I bake fish; broil or bake beef and pork; and bake or boil chicken, but my favorite preparation may be to braise! Earlier this year, I braised some steak I dredged in gluten-free flour and cooked with a flavorful broth. The result inadvertently mimicked my grandmother’s beef and noodles. In fact, my sister, who thought this was a deliberate replication said, “You nailed it! You can fix this for my birthday,” when she sampled the dish. I confessed it was a happy accident.

One of the benefits of braising is the tenderness of the meat when it’s done. My grandmother used a pressure cooker to achieve this effect. Pressure cookers scare me. I always visualize food on the ceiling that has spewed through the valve at the top. I think I’ll stick with braising.
The other day, I had some country style pork ribs on hand and lots of rain outside. I wasn’t willing to fight the elements to use the grill so I decided to braise the ribs. I can’t say this was a well-thought plan. It is more aptly described as a few decisions based on convenience. I threw some balsamic vinegar, tamari, and a splash of olive oil in an enameled cast iron pot and added a little sugar. The mixture tasted pleasantly salty with a subtle tang.

I placed the pot over medium heat and allowed it to come to a boil while I stirred until the sugar melted. I then placed each rib, unseasoned, into the liquid and immediately turned it so that both sides were coated. Once all of the ribs were in place, I added a large stem of fresh mint leaves for an aromatic top note.

As I began the braising, I had the thought that the flavor profile would have been a good choice for lamb. I wasn’t sure how it would play with pork, but I always throw things together and hope for the best. Usually, it works out.

Braising can be done in the oven or on top of the stove. I used the top of the stove. The idea is to keep the heat low and cook for a long time. I placed the covered pot over a very low flame and set the timer for an hour. Once the hour had passed, I turned the ribs again, sprinkled in a little cayenne, mignonette pepper, and garlic powder for good measure, gave it a stir and continued to cook for another hour.

The results fall off the bone as expected with this cooking technique. The color is dark, almost black, and the flavor rich. There’s plenty of salt from the tamari. There’s no noticeable sweetness, but the sugar has helped create the illusion of caramelization that makes the burned edges of barbecue so appealing.

The flavor is not wholly familiar. It’s lacking any mustard or tomato base that would be typically associated with country style ribs. And of course there’s no smokiness. Nonetheless, the ribs are satisfying and delicious.

I’ll make these ribs again to nail down the actual measurements for a recipe, then we’ll test that recipe a few times to make any needed changes before it is approved for publication. All Cooking2Thrive original recipes are tested a minimum of three times. Some are tested many more.

Once the recipe is perfected, all you’ll have to do is follow the instructions to braise then graze!

Two Wrongs Can…Make Delicious Breadcrumbs!

This week’s recipe tests proved that two wrongs can…make delicious breadcrumbs! Periodically, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen creating new gluten-free recipes. I cook, record what I think I’ve done, and then prepare the recipe again to see if I’ve gotten it right. If I have, the recipe is ready to be sent to out for a final test. If I haven’t, I try again. I think biscuits took about 9 tries, but the result is definitely worth it.

Anyway, this week I was concentrating on a new yeast roll and sandwich bread. The first batch of rolls went a little long in the oven, so I tweaked the baking time and the second batch was delicious! Confident, I started on the bread.
I wanted a really wet dough for the sandwich bread. I was happy when I poured it out of the bowl into the baking pan. Unfortunately, I filled the pan too full. It rose beautifully, but once I put it in the oven, began to rise over and drip down and around the pan. The good news is, the stalagmites formed by the dripping dough were incredibly good. The bad news is, the bread would not hold together when sliced thin.
At the end of the day, I had 10 rolls and a loaf of bread that were less than satisfactory. As you know, gluten-free flours don’t come cheap, so I wanted to put the mistakes to good use. I thought about making bread pudding, but decided I wasn’t in the mood for dessert. After exploring other options like croutons, I landed on bread crumbs as the thing I would use the most. I freeze them for later use in tuna croquettes and stuffed mushrooms or to top casseroles. I can also use them in meatballs or meatloaf.
With my bread crumb plan, I let the bread sit for a couple of days, then crumbled it into a flat pan and placed it in a 200º oven for an hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. I then let them sit out on top of the stove for the rest of the day. Sometimes, I’ll let the crumbs sit uncovered in a cool oven for an additional day.

Once the crumbs were dry, I placed them in a food chopper and ground them for a few seconds to make them more uniform. They were then ready to be put in an airtight container and stored in the freezer.

My sister is sometimes hesitant to try new things in the kitchen because she wants all her efforts to turn out well. I don’t worry so much about the first result because my mistakes are often fortuitous in one way or another. This week two wrongs made great breadcrumbs. Who knows what next week’s failings may contribute? I’m looking forward to finding out!