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!

Pei Wei Does It Right!

I’ve got to hand it to Pei Wei; they really do it right. Not only do they have a gluten-free menu, their customer service is superb.

Today was a hectic one. We had planned to clean out the office so I was expecting a relaxed, jeans wearing sort of day. Of course things rarely turn out as expected.

First, we had no internet, which meant no email. Most of our business moves back and forth via email with very large attachments. When that method isn’t available, much driving around is required.

Then there was an urgent pick up, and before I knew it, I was two hours behind and needing to grab a quick lunch. I was close to Pei Wei, so I called 411, got the number, and made a call.

A friendly girl answered my call and asked how she could help. I said, “I’d like to place an order to go.” She asked, “Is this Cheri”? “Yes,” I replied feeling surprised. “Would you like gluten-free edamame, and a gluten-free Pei Wei spicy chicken with brown rice?” she inquired. “That would be perfect,” I said still feeling a bit dazed.

Pei Wei

It really was that easy. When I arrived 10 minutes later, my order was ready. Each container was marked with a gluten-free sticker, and the enclosed soy sauce packets were Tamari. A quick debit card swipe and I was headed back to my card with a bag of food in my hand.

Since I don’t often order from Pei Wei, I did not anticipate this personalized interaction. They used technology to create a customer service experience that exceeded my expectations. Not only that, but they made getting gluten-free take out easier than pie on a day when I was already overwhelmed. For that, I am grateful.

If you’re in a hurry and need to stick with your gluten-free plan, give Pei Wei a call. They may already know exactly what you want to order.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”