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Sep 30, 2006 04:00 AM

All About Braising: Pork and Lamb Recipe Reviews

October 2006 Cookbook of the Month: Please post your full-length reviews of pork and lamb recipes from Molly Stevens' All About Braising here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. If this is a recipe you've done many times before but aren't cooking currently, consider adding a note to the All About Braising: Previous Picks and Pans thread:

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Sirloin Pork Chops Braised with Hot Cherry Peppers (p. 344)

    This recipe turned out very good. I was skeptical because the boneless sirloin chop looked, well, a little lean, for my taste. Also, when I stuck a fork in it, the meat didn't fall apart and I was worried about the short braising time (about 40 minutes). But the meat was tender and flavorful.

    Part of why this recipe was so good was because of the sauce. I followed the recipe pretty closely. I started off with 1/4 lb of chorizo, chopped into little bits and then browned. I removed the chorizo, drained the fat and softened onions. Threw in garlic and then dry vermouth. I boiled to reduce the vermouth and added the white wine vinegar and chicken stock.

    After the aromatics, this is when I put in the seasoned pork chops. But the great part of this recipe comes from the pickled hot cherry peppers. I shredded the 3 peppers up (by hand over the pot) and added a few teaspoons of the pepper juice. What was also nice is that it gave the meal a bit of color. Everything else in this pork dish is a shade of brown or beige. The pork braised in these juices for about 45 minutes and the house smelled wonderful.

    After the braise, I removed the pork and thickened up the sauce. After the sauce thickened, I threw the chorizo back in and spooned the sauce over the pork.

    I served this with braised potatoes with rosemary and a salad.

    Picture of meal:

    5 Replies
    1. re: beetlebug

      That looks and sounds fantastic. How spicy did it end up? How do you shred the cherry peppers by hand? Do you just break them up, or did you actually use some kind of grater?

      1. re: BKchompchomp

        Not that spicy. But, I can eat a lot of spice with little or no effect. These were homemade pickled peppers and I had de-seeded them prior to pickling. Next time, I will either use more cherry peppers or mix it up with habaneros and jalapenos.

        I ripped the peppers with my fingers. The pieces were not as small as I would have liked, but whatever.

      2. re: beetlebug

        I love those chops - one of my favorite recipes from the book. Sometimes I use the boneless country style ribs instead of chops. I also like the variation she suggests where you add 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to the sauce. Great picture!

        1. re: beetlebug

          I made this tonight w/ local, humane loin chops. When I found pickled peppers in the store I knew which pork dish was for dinner!
          Interesting flavors -- the chorizo and pickled peppers -- and not alot of work or time. But it didn't work well for me -- the chops were tough. I pretty much followed the recipe -- used pickled jalapenos and banana pepper pieces from a jar, substituted red wine vinegar for the white ('cause I couldn't find or didn't have white), and added heavy cream at end, because well, that's what I call a sauce(!)
          Served w/ polenta and sauteed swiss chard, which worked well together.
          I'd recommend it to others to try -- and don't fear the peppers because it doesn't end up hot (particularly if you mellow it w/ cream), but you gotta like chorizo because that's evident in the taste and texture of the sauce (which I do). Funny, that while this dish didn't wow me, I feel increased confidence in Molly Stevens. She has very good techniques, and explains them well and nicely as to why she's saying you should do what she tells you to.

          1. re: NYchowcook

            Hmmm - that's too bad. This is one of my favorite recipes - I wonder if the changes in the ingredients (not using hot cherry peppers and a different wine vinegar) make that much of a difference? And interesting point about the chorizo. I've always used soppressata.

        2. Chengdu Braised Pork with Daikon Radish (pg. 371)

          I liked this but didn't love it. But, I did fiddle with it and make some minor substitutions. This had a great flavor and was tender, but it wasn't melt in your mouth tender. The surprising thing about this recipe was that it was braised with an *uncovered* pan. She stressed that twice under the braising instructions. To me, it's just counter intuitive to braising, having that skillet uncovered.

          Substitutions and caveats on my recipe

          Sichuan peppercorns - mine are about a year old. And, for personal preference, I should have used more than the 3T that was recommended. I did toast, grind and sift per the instructions.

          Hot Bean Paste - for some reason, I couldn't find this. For those Bostonians, I went to the Super 88 in Allston. All I saw was chili paste or variations thereof. Nothing with beans. The funny thing is that I could picture the bottle in my head. I must of seen it before or my mom must have some at home. At Whole Foods, I found bean paste (no hot). I had a great chinese chili paste at home. So, I took a 1/4 measuring cup. Filled most of it up with bean paste. Filled the last 1/4 inch with the chili paste. I should have gone more 50-50

          Chinese Rock Sugar - I did have this at home. Had no idea how much 2 oz. were, so I guestimated. I don't think I was too far off though. I used 2 one inch chunks.

          I cut the pork butt into 2 inch pieces per directions. This was much bigger than I thought so I took a ruler to test measure a couple of pieces. I was accurate, 2x2 pieces of meat are just big. They didn't shrink as much as I thought they would, either.

          After browning the meat, I poured the fat off. I added the chicken broth, brought it to a boil and scraped the gunk off the bottom. I added the scallions, sherry, bean paste mixture, sugar, soy sauce, garlic and sichuan peppercorns anda simmered until the sugar dissolved. I returned the pork back to the sauce and braised *uncovered* for 45 minutes. Then I added the daikon radish chunks and braised again *uncovered* for another hour.

          The house smelled wonderful. Just mouth watering wonderful.

          took the meat and radish out, and strained the sauce over the meat. There wasn't as much braising liquid as I would have liked, but there was enough. The dish went into the fridge overnight.

          Picture of the dish after strain:

          The next night, I pre-heated the oven to 350 degrees. I scraped the fat off the braising liquid. The directions in the book states that the re-heat time would be 20-30 minutes. That's bull. 20 minutes, the meat was still cold. I had it in the oven, covered with foil, for almost an hour. I served the dish with soft chinese egg noodles.

          The flavor of the dish was fabulous. The meat was tender and the daikon radish gave it a nice contrast. The meat had a subtle peppery flavor. At first, you wouldn't taste it, but some bites, the peppercorns came through. There weren't enough peppercorns in the dish to give it the ma la sensation that I was looking for. I also would have liked more sauce on my noodles though. But, I want a lot of sauce on my noodles period.

          I will probably re-heat this for dinner. My fear is that the noodles will dry out because they were a little dry to begin with. I don't know if I would make this dish again. I liked it, but didn't love it.

          Here is a picture of the final dish. The noodles are hiding underneath the meat.

          4 Replies
          1. re: beetlebug

            Even though you didn't love it - it looks so good, I'll have to try it. I'll try it with your modifications and tips though!

            1. re: Rubee

              Boy! It sure does look good! Do you think that if you'd covered it during the braising it would have had more of the melting tenderness you were hoping for?

              1. re: JoanN

                I think so. That cut of meat has all this lovely fat in it that would dissolve into the meat itself. And, I think I would have more liquid because it wouldn't be boiling away. I do wonder why she had this be an uncovered braise. I mean, the very definition in her book (pg. 3) says that it is a method of cooking in a *closed* container.

            2. re: beetlebug

              Whenever I've bought hot bean paste (and I usually buy it for ma po tofu), it comes in a little blue can in Asian supermarkets. Has a distinct flavor that isn't really like a chili paste.

              Even though you said you liked the dish but didn't love it, you sure made it sound appetizing.

            3. Braised lamb shanks provencal
              I’m actually not a big meat eater. Was a vegetarian for years before my husband came along 10 years ago. But there’s something about braised meat that strikes a cord in me. I never have a hankering for oh hamburgers, for instance. But the earthy bass note of braised meat – particularly beef chuck I find deeply satisfying.

              I have made lamb shanks before. Tomato-based braise; white wine tarragon braise. Sometimes I like them; other times they are just too ... well, gamey. Then I made Molly’s shanks. Wow. I’m here to encourage all who kinda like shanks to get on the bus and make Molly’s!

              I was skeptical because the braising liquid is well, not very out of the ordinary – a good amount of onions, tomatoes, garlic, white wine, chicken stock and lemon peel. She has you add a good amount of paprika to the flour in which you coat the shanks before you brown them. And she has you use the peel of an entire lemon. Before I’d used oh, maybe a 2" strip. But into the pot went the several lemon peel strips (I removed the pith underneath by running a paring knife across it. Easy as pie and I’m fanatical about no bitterness). I had fresh plum tomatoes so I used them – I readied the pot o’ water to peel them, but she didn’t say to, so I poured out the pot and merely chopped instead.

              With tomatoes, onions, garlic I wasn’t feeling all that confident that this dish would amount to much since it seemed so . . . ordinary. But I went along. I browned the shanks, made the braising liquid and braised. I made a day ahead (and made braised pork chops for dinner --quite a cooking day!), so I stopped after 2-1/2 hours to do the finish the next day (lemon, olives, parsley).
              Well, the next day I couldn’t get oil-cured olives, so I never got to the finish. I skimmed off the fat, reheated, made polenta, and chowed down! Wonderful. Maybe it was that I used local humanely-raised lamb shanks. Or maybe it was the right combo of cooking ingredients and techniques. The dish was fabulous.
              I think the finish of lemon, olives and parsley would be good, gilding the lily, I’d now say. Even without the prescribed finale, I had a fine meal indeed. I will be making this again.

              30 Replies
              1. re: NYchowcook

                This is the only recipe that I've made from the book; made it over a month ago. And yes, it was very good. Even though the ingredients are "ordinary" as you say, everything comes together well and the finishing touches brighten up the stewed flavors. I've never used paprika to season the dredging flour for lamb shanks and liked that addition very much.

                I'm going to try Molly's version of milk-braised pork tomorrow night...

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  I made this, but with three shoulder chops instead of shanks. I had gorgeous orange tomatoes and otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely, though I cut it down to match the amount of meat I had. Also, I did not flour the chops before I browned them. I didn't have fresh herbs, so when I added the bay leaves and zest, I added some dried herbs--mostly thyme, a little rosemary, and a smidge of parsely and sage. It was delicious. I paired it with a brown rice pilaf cooked with apricots and pine nuts.

                2. re: NYchowcook

                  Braised lamb shanks provencal

                  I made this last week and it was delicious. The lamb practically jumped off the bone and into my mouth, it was that tender. And, the sauce was out of this world. I didn't use oil cured olives, I just used plain old kalamata (unless those are oil cured olives). It was salty and lemony and just so many flavors popping everywhere. I had extra sauce so I gave it to a friend so she could try it and she loved it as well.

                  A slight hitch, I only had one lamb shank so I reduced all the other ingredients proportionately. When I took the pot out of the oven, most of the liquid had disappeared (and I had been adding the liquid throughout the braising time). So, I just added a bunch more water and scraped the bottom of some of the charred stuff. I wasn't able to defat it and maybe that's why the sauce was so tasty. No biggie overall and everything still turned out great.

                  I served this with polenta and sauteed rapini. Just a lovely dinner all around.

                  1. re: NYchowcook

                    Braised lamb shanks provençal

                    My local Market Basket had some lovely lamb shanks in the case this week, at a reasonable price so I grabbed 4. Each shank was in the 1.5 lb range, so a little bigger than the recipe calls for. I didn't adjust the amount of vegetable and liquid. I used canned tomatoes.

                    I chose to make this as a two-day recipe. I love lamb, but I don't love the taste of excessive lamb fat. Day 1, I did all the prep and braised for 2 1/2 hrs. Then threw the pot into the fridge. Day 2, I defatted the dish [about a cup and half of fat], braised for another hour which only brought the meat to "warm." Pulled the shanks, reduced the sauce on the stovetop and when it began to thicken, I placed the shanks back into the sauce on the stovetop, covered. I omitted the olives at the end since I am the only person here who likes them. I did add the lemon and parsley. Served over mashed potatoes.

                    I invited the kid to dinner and the three of us ate in silence only punctuated by "mmmmm, this is really good."

                    The remaining two shanks will be dinner tonight, and I am planning to make some polenta. Darn this was a delicious dish.

                    1. re: smtucker

                      Mwwwwaaaah! Thanks smtucker!

                      I went through the store ads last night, but didn't see beef or lamb shanks on sale. But I know MB usually has pretty reasonable prices, so it was either stopping there or at BJ's Wholesale Club this evening - looks like it'll be Market Basket for lamb shanks!

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        Not on sale.... but very fairly priced. I don't usually see lamb shanks at my MB, so I snatched them up immediately. After all, if no one buys them, they won't ever put them out again. I shop at the Somerville market, in case that information is helpful.

                        1. re: smtucker

                          I'll be going to the Reading store, which is a relatively new store, so I'm hoping they'll have either that or beef shanks. I've got a craving after reading the All About Braising cookbook last night. :-)

                      2. re: smtucker

                        Braised lamb shanks provençal
                        Cooked yesterday. This is my first time to cook Lamb Shanks and I was a bit intimidated. It Turned out beautifully and now I feel I had been missing something important in my life until yesterday. I used my All-Clad 6 qt stockpot and putting 6 shanks in it was kind of very tight. Next time, I will use my 6.75qt LC if I cook 6. My DH was wordless and so thankful to me (good!). It is surely one of our favorites from the book.

                      3. re: NYchowcook

                        NYchowcook, I know this is an old thread, but I am hoping you could share this recipe.
                        I have 3 lamb shoulder chops approx. 1 inch thick and would like to braise them. Your recipe sounds lovely.
                        ....Sorry, just did an internet search and found recipe!

                        1. re: heylids

                          well this is a very late reply, but I just made the shanks again last night. David Tanis has a recipe in his new Heart of the Artichoke book that says you can cut up some boneless lamb shoulder (in 1/2 lb. pieces) in lieu of shanks.
                          basically, you season shanks, brown in dutch oven and remove. Saute chopped onion, then garlic, some canned tomatoes, bay leaves, lemon zest, paprika, S&P. Add wine (I omitted) and reduce. Add chicken stock and reduce.
                          Put shanks back in pot; put parchment paper in close to shanks, cover and braise at 325 degrees for 2-1/2 hrs. Then you can gild the lily by mixing in some lemon sections, oil cured olives and chopped parsley.
                          This is not my recipe; it's Molly Stevens "all about braising" and the *Queen* of braising to my reckoning.

                        2. re: NYchowcook

                          If any of the regular COTM crowd, or others!, happen to see this---I'm vacillating between this Molly Stevens recipe and this,, Tom Valenti recipe. --- to use on some lamb shanks for braising tomorrow.

                          Can anyone put a thumb on the scales and help me make up my mind which recipe to use?

                          1. re: qianning

                            I really can't help you choose since I haven't cooked either recipe, but I can tell you that we've cooked 2 Valenti recipes from his one-pot meals book. 1 was terrific, 1 not so much. However I love his idea of using the foreshanks for this. OTOH, Molly Steven's recipes are always terrific. The recipe I use for braised lamb shanks is Mario Batali's. (Molto Italiano)

                            Good Luck, Q. Gung Hay Fat Choy!

                            1. re: Gio

                              Thanks for the tip Gio--I hadn't seen the Batali recipe. I did spend a ridiculous amount of time yesterday looking at lamb shank recipes, several of which involve citrus, and i just happen to have two more pieces of lamb in the freezer, so many later in February.

                              Meanwhile, I'm going to go with the Valenti version today, because I got "Welcome to My Kitchen" as a gift a while back, but have never used it, so time to give a few dishes a whirl. It also helps that I have everything his recipe requires on hand.

                              And...Gong Xi Fa Cai to you & yours.

                            2. re: qianning

                              I haven't made the Valenti recipe but re-reading my report, I loved Stevens' recipe. The thing with ABB is that nothing looks extraordinary but between the technique and the combo of flavors, it's always a hit. Plus, the big bonus is that her timing is spot on which is so helpful in meal planning.

                              1. re: qianning

                                No, I can't. I can only confuse you even more:

                                A different approach that is equally delicious. I especially love the gremolata to finish. I now use this trick for most of my braised dishes.

                                In fact, I don't believe I have ever eaten a braised lamb shank that I didn't love. Can't wait to hear what you select.

                                1. re: smtucker

                                  Agree on the general principle of gremolata. Interesting recipe you linked to, have never seen/used horseradish in a gremolata; just the more standard green herbs and citrus rind.

                                  1. re: qianning

                                    harumph! That horseradish has been added since I printed the recipe. Horseradish doesn't belong in a gremolata. Sorry to lead you astray.

                                    1. re: smtucker

                                      Funny. You know reading that makes me feel better about the humongous file book of recipes printed from the web and returned library books that takes up a good chunk of precious kitchen space. My Luddite side has a need for a physical copy.

                                2. re: qianning

                                  I can't help you choose between these recipes, but to throw another ringer into the mix, the lamb shanks from the union square cafe cookbook (the first one) are incredible!

                                  1. re: Westminstress

                                    Saw your description of that recipe on the Union Square thread during my marathon lamb shank recipe reading; it sounds awfully good too.

                                    1. re: qianning

                                      The Valenti sounds good too. Can't go wrong with wine garlic and anchovies! Let us know how you like it.

                                      1. re: Westminstress

                                        So the Valenti recipe was major hit with us. The aromas and flavors of the braising liquid really reminded me of those complex T. Keller brines, but the resulting sauce had the depth and texture of a good ragout. Straining and skimming it at the end was a bit of a pain, but doable, and oh so worth it.

                                        Looking forward to trying one of the more citrus-y (Batali or Stevens) recipes with the remaining two shanks that I stashed in the freezer.

                                        Thanks all.

                                        1. re: qianning

                                          That sounded so good to me I've bookmarked the recipe. Thanks Qianning!

                                          ETA: The recipe is in his book, "Welcome To My Kitchen". Costs $0.01 at Amazon, with several copies available. Naturally I had to buy one!

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            Oh-oh, I've turned into an enabler!

                                            The white bean puree was good too. But in making the beans, I did find he needs a better editor. There was random sentence mid-way through that made no sense. I ignored it, soldiered on and got good results anyway.

                                            1. re: qianning

                                              It doesn't take much to entice me to buy a cookbook. I actually just zipped the bean puree recipe into Pepperplate to have it handy. I pre-cooked dry large lima beans yesterday and now I can use his recipe this week instead of searching through EYB.

                                          2. re: qianning

                                            Glad you liked it. That is my go-to recipe for lamb shanks for several years now. So, so delicious.

                                            Happy for the reminder: it's about time for some lamb shanks.

                                  2. re: NYchowcook

                                    Braised Lamb Shanks Provencal.

                                    Thud. Alright having dispensed with the punch line, let me explain that it all came down to the lemon juice, for us it was just too much acid for the dish. Had I skipped the lemon segment/juice finish and just added a lemon peel/parsley/garlic gremolata, we probably would have really liked this. Sorry to be swimming against the current on this one, and was of two minds about posting, but for anyone reading this before making the dish, perhaps add a little lemon, taste and then decide about putting in the rest.

                                    1. re: qianning

                                      Oh no! Next time (next winter? though it seems it will never end....) try the version from Union Square Cafe. Selfishly, I'd really like to have a comparison of that vs. the Valenti.

                                      1. re: qianning

                                        Reverse Thud; or quick post in which I eat my words more or less.

                                        So the second lamb shank had been languishing in the fridge for some time because we were dreading it, but I was darned if I'd waste it. Anyhow, stumbled home late, cold and tired with nothing planned for dinner one night this week. Time to do the deed. Wow, talk about 180 degrees, this was so good. The intense sour lemon flavor from the first go round was gone, replaced by a light and lovely citrus note, and the olives melded into the tomato in a really pleasing way. Served over a buttered rice, with endive salad on the side, made for a more or less perfect winter meal. Go figure.

                                    2. Milk Braised Pork (too lazy to run downstairs for page number)

                                      Looks like the exact recipe is spelled out here:

                                      I've certainly heard tales of this dish popularized by Marcella Hazan, but I've never made it before. Molly gives credit to Marcella in her intro for the recipe, but has made her own tweaks. I'll have to look at Marcella's recipe, but I'm assuming that Molly's has more garlic and seasonings for a more intense flavor. Molly suggests a pork blade or loin roast whereas Marcella uses shoulder, IIRC.

                                      Overall, the dish was incredible! The seasonings work so well together, and I would def. use fresh sage. I used a 2.5 lb. loin roast and was surprised at how flavorful and moist the meat remained after nearly 1.5 hrs. in the oven. I confess that I totally spaced on the part that says it should be taken out when the meat reaches 150F, so by the time I checked, the internal temp. was about 170F! Thought I had ruined it, but the method seemed forgiving enough after tasting.

                                      The appearance is def. unusual, but I liked the rustic look and the fluffy curds of coagulated milk. The caramel-hued sauce is deeply nutty and savory w/ a salty edge. The addition of lemon juice to finish beautifully brightens. Molly has a variation to blitz the lumpy sauce w/ cream in a blender for those who would prefer a smooth consistency. Has anyone tried this method?

                                      I look forward to comparing to Marcella's and Tony Bourdain's versions.

                                      Photo of finished roast in sauce:

                                      Photo of plated slices w/ modified version of her braised fennel (recommended by her as a good pairing):

                                      Some tips that I will remember for next time:

                                      1. Season at least 8 hrs. ahead if possible. I only did right before, but think it would be even better pre-seasoned.

                                      2. Try to insert all garlic into slits deeply enough so that no garlic is on surface of meat such that garlic won't burn while searing. I might use a little less garlic next time.

                                      3. Add more milk. I like a good amount of sauce and will use at least 2 cups next time.

                                      4. While the braised fennel dish was good, it also had strong flavors that made for too much intensity on one plate for me. Would make a more basic, subtler version for next time.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: Carb Lover

                                        The texture of the sauce looks very similar to the Joy of Cooking version, which claims it's really an adaptation of Marcella's version. I'm relieved .. I always wondered if my curds were supposed to get more firm than that, but this seems to be the texture. I think it's delicious, but I only serve it to company that doesn't mind the way it looks.

                                        1. re: Carb Lover

                                          Made this milk-braised pork as well. Verdict: we are enjoying the pork (lots of leftovers), but I think we would enjoy a simple roasted pork better.

                                          Thanks for the pics Carb Lover, now I know for sure that something went wrong with mine... I didn't get any big curds like that, although there were smaller ones. Maybe I should have reduced more as well.

                                          Not sure what happened here. I did use 3/4 cup extra of milk because the sauce did not come 1/3 of the way up the meat the way she describes elsewhere in the book (even with the extra liquid it was less than a quarter the way up). I actually think she could add *more* detail to the recipes on how far the liquid should come up the meat: if the cook doesn't have the specified pan (an oval one in this case), or halves/doubles the recipe, there will be discrepancies. Because she gives so many details I get nervous when the detail isn't there.

                                          I also had to turn the oven up to 300 because I had no simmer happening. I cooked my 3 lb roast 10 minutes past 150. I think, well I know, that my spices were old (I think I've had those fennel seeds longer than I've had my husband!). If I made it again, and I'm not sure I like the concept enough to do so, I would definitely use fresh sage. Neither the pork or the sauce are doing much for me beyond the fact that nice fatty pork is in itself delicious!

                                          1. re: julesrules

                                            Thanks for your report. Sorry to hear it didn't wow you.

                                            Exactly what kind of braising vessel did you use? I used my Le Creuset oven and it did well at 250F.

                                            Did you use old fennel seed and dried sage (or fresh)? I can't really stand dried sage but love the fresh stuff.

                                            I know what you mean about holes in detail. I've found this across a few recipes, but am generally confident about filling in the blanks. I generally find the recipes easy to follow and thorough though.

                                            1. re: Carb Lover

                                              I used a round Le Creuset dutch oven (not sure what size it is, but there was about 2 inches minimum around the roast). Did you use parchment paper at all? My roast seemed tall enough that it wouldn't have made much difference.
                                              I also used a shoulder blade roast, while she specifies that she prefers rib (?) blade for its greater delicacy.
                                              I used old dried sage that didn't have much odour (bad sign I know - time to clean out the spice drawer). I love fresh sage, but my sage plant isn't doing well and my husband says I can't ask the neighbours for some of theirs!
                                              The recipes are pretty thorough, making the holes stand out more to me!

                                              1. re: julesrules

                                                Sounds like we used similar enough vessels. I did not use parchment and confess I've ignored this in some recipes. I used pork loin, which is relatively lean.

                                                Old dried sage is the worst; don't listen to your husband and knock on the neighbors' door next time! :-)

                                          2. re: Carb Lover

                                            So I ran across this thread looking for something to do with a very lean pork roast (which had me looking at it, thinking: why did I buy this? I never buy lean pork).

                                            For once, I followed the recipe (Carb Lover's link) exactly, down to pouring out the fat after browning and measuring it back in, and it came out very well, I thought. I also didn't catch it at 150 -- it was actually 160 or a bit more, but it was still moist (I think I might have liked it a little better if I'd managed to get it earlier, though). The texture was not what I was expecting: I always think of braised meats as being "fork tender" and this was a little firmer than that -- actually, I really liked the texture: tender but still al dente. I served it sliced on a bed of sweet potato pappadelle that was tossed with a little of the sauce, and then drizzled the sauce over the slices, which made for a nice enough presentation. Looking at Carb Lover's photos, my sauce was much darker and more caramelized, and my curds were much smaller -- in fact, there weren't any large curds when I took it out of the oven, although some formed as the sauce reduced. I think maybe I didn't let the sauce reduce enough in the oven.

                                            I think Carb Lover may have "seared" instead of "browned" (the recipe said over medium-high heat and that it should take 12-14 minutes, which mine did), because except for a couple of slivers of garlic that fell out into the oil, I didn't have any problem with the garlic burning (which was something I was also worried about).

                                            I'll probably make this recipe again, as the ratio of effort to deliciousness was pretty low. I'm sure my pork-and-sage loving Dad will enjoy it. And I loved the fact that everything is done in one pot: I managed to finally achieve my goal of having a dinner party -- three courses plus a cheese board -- where the kitchen wasn't covered with dirty pots and pans and dishes halfway through (which it always has been, even when I clean along the way).

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              I did in fact make this again today -- I had another of those roasts (I'd bought a 3-pack at Costco) that I'd thawed to cook for Xmas and then not cooked. It really is very easy -- after making it once I only had to check the recipe a couple of times to get the measurements and oven temp right. I managed to catch it at 155, and its a little more succulent, so it's worth it, I think, to monitor it closely after the first hour and try to get it at 150, although as Carb Lover found, it won't be ruined if it goes longer. I didn't reduce the sauce as much this time, and I still didn't get big curds, but the sauce is delicious.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                Pork Loin Braised in Milk: pg. 347

                                                I made a go at this last big caveat here though: I tried to adopt the recipe for a pork tenderloin. This wasn't entirely intentional, I really had set out to make the World's Best Braised Green Cabbage and while at the store I selected tenderloin to go with the cabbage and when I got home, I thought "Oh, I'll just look at the pork recipes and see if I can find anything to do with this tenderloin..."

                                                Well, the first big problem/challenge was that I have only one oven and the cabbage cooks at 325, while the pork calls for 275. Okay, reduce the cooking time for the pork...and check carefully with the digital thermometer. Even so, after just 25 minutes in the oven, that baby was 174 degrees, internally. Woe is me I thought and quickly took it out. Dang it, I didn't even get to turn it over. However, the meat didn't seem TOO firm, and it all smelled so good that I still had high hopes. The chowpup kept saying "when do we get to eat this deliciousness?" And she is a self-proclaimes fennel seed hater. Didn't tell her it was in there...

                                                And those hopes were rewarded. The meat was not at all tough, the sauce didn't curdle (though it started to when I went to reduce it). I would definately make this again either with a more appropriate cut of pork, or use a slower oven and allow three hours instead of two for the cabbage. Because, all in all the combo was great.

                                          3. Spaghetti alla Carbonara with Braised Slab Bacon (pg. 392)

                                            Yummy. Bacon. The house smelled positively scrumptious and filled with subtle bacon smell. This was not a short recipe. The bacon basically cooked or cooled all day. But, it was worth it.

                                            I followed the recipe pretty closely and the end result was delicious. I blanched 3/4 lb of slab bacon in water. The bacon, cut up carrot, chopped up onion, bay leaf and peppercorns went into a small pot with chicken broth and wine. After bringing the broth to a boil, I put parchment paper over the meat, put the lid on and put it in the oven for about 2.5 hours. I flipped the bacon every hour. After two hours, the bacon was fork tender. The fork slid right into the meat. But, the bacon still looked a bit pale, so I put it back in for another half hour. At this point, one of the pieces of bacon was so tender that the bacon started to disintergrate stopped the braising process and turned the broiler on. I placed the pot with the bacon and braising liquid under the broiler until I could hear the snap, crackle and pops of the fat browning. After I browned both sides, I removed the bacon from the broth and cooled it to room temperature.


                                            My piece of bacon was very fatty. I think it was fattier than most because the braising liquid was not that fatty. To the eye, I could see all the fat, still on the bacon. When I cut the bacon into "cubes" into wasn't really cubes. The fat kind of clumped together in an unappetizing mess.

                                            I heated evoo into a skillet and put the bacon in. Now, the fat started to melt off the bacon. As the bacon got nice and crispy, a lot of fat started accumulating in the pan. Not in the book - I poured off a lot of the fat. I just couldn't fathom eating the fat with the pasta. I added wine to the bacon and simmered it down.


                                            As the pasta water was cooking, I beat three eggs in a small bowl. When the pasta finished cooking, I removed pasta water and put it with the eggs. I frantically whipped the eggs and pasta water, added pecorino cheese and parmesan cheese and parsley. I tossed the sauce with the pasta and added the bacon mixture on top. It was delicious and unfortunately, there were no leftovers.


                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: beetlebug

                                              Sounds delicious - I'll have to try that one!

                                              1. re: beetlebug

                                                Spaghetti alla carbonara is Mr GG's all-time favourite dish, but he hardly ever gets to eat it, poor man, because it's "too simple". So I was excited to try this recipe to see how it compared to the classic dish, and so was he.

                                                Sadly, this didn't really work for me and it was proof that you don't need to mess with the classics. One caveat though - perhaps my bacon wasn't the right type (I bought a smoked, cured pork belly joint thinking that would be pretty much the same as slab bacon, which you rarely see here other than as pancetta). Anyway, I fail to see how this can be as good as simply using lardons of good quality pancetta, as blanching and then braising the bacon seemed to remove all of the smoky, salty, bacony flavour. It was fork tender, but kind of just fell apart (that may have been because I didn't have time to let it cool completely before slicing it - caveat no 2), and had very little flavour. It was also a lot of work for a mediocre result, when you can knock up a great classic carbonara in less than half an hour. Also in my book wine has no place in a carbonara. I'll be sticking to my tried and tested method from "The Silver Spoon" in future.