September 30th, 2014

Beer-Braised Chicken with apples and pears

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Even though the days have been heating up, nights have ushered in a welcome cool here in Nashville. Not quite sweater or jacket weather—but soon. Autumn officially began last week, and you can sense the shift. Clear dry air, different quality of light, and just yesterday I noticed the tinge of orange and yellow on the maple trees. I’m ready.

With the onset of fall, I’ve been prompted to clean and declutter. Part of my “As above, So below” philosophy: straightening out a crammed closet, getting rid of unused stuff, doing that “deep cleaning” and organizing. When I bring order externally, it brings order within. It also sheds what I call “psychic dead weight.” Those two bundles of clothes I took to Goodwill? Ah, already I feel lighter.

You gotta keep the path clear for creativity’s flow!

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And in the kitchen, I’ve been embracing the braise. Beef brisket for potluck. Cider pork shoulder for a cooking class. And today, chicken breasts in beer with apples, pears, and shallots.

The style of cooking suits not only the season, but also my temperament these busy workdays. Take a meat and brown it, building a foundation of flavor in a heavy duty Dutch oven. Cover it, and let it simmer, undisturbed, into succulence, while you go about the affairs of the day.

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The beauty of this chicken dish is that, unlike big roasts, it doesn’t take hours to braise. Less than one hour, really. Inspired by a recipe on Cooking Light, I used beer as the braising liquid. I don’t drink beer, but I always seem to have a random bottle or two in my fridge, leftover from one of our potluck gatherings.

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Add in shallots, coarse grain Dijon mustard, sliced apples and pears, and you have a luscious dish that makes me think of Belgian farmhouse cooking. As the beer simmers and reduces, it tenderizes the chicken. It melds with the fruit and mustard, transforming into a sauce imbued with the ale’s malt and hops.

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There are a number of sides that would be excellent with this. Roasted root vegetables. Creamy polenta. Wild rice. You want an accompaniment that will capture all the savory juices.

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I chose to make pearl couscous folded with chopped arugula. It is fast and easy—ten minutes of cooking—something you can throw together right before dinner. I relish the bitter edge imparted by the arugula. Use any type of green that you happen to enjoy, or have on hand.

Here’s to a new season of cooking, eating and sharing.

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BEER BRAISED CHICKEN WITH APPLES AND PEARS adapted from Cooking Light
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 Chicken Breasts
Salt
Black Pepper
3 tablespoons Coarse Grain Dijon Mustard, divided
1/2 cup sliced shallots
1 Gala apple, sliced
1 Red pear, sliced
6 ounces beer
1 tablespoon honey

Place a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add olive oil. Liberally coat the chicken breasts with coarse grain mustard, then sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Place into the Dutch oven, skin side down first, and allow the chicken to brown on one side–about 5 minutes.

Flip the chicken. Add the shallots and cook for 1 minute. Add the apples and pears. Stir.
Mix the honey into the beer and pour over the chicken.

Cover and braise for 15-20 minutes. Check for doneness. Stir and scrape up any browned bits.
Place chicken on bed of couscous. Spoon over apples and pears and drench the chicken in the savory juices.

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TRI-COLOR PEARL COUSCOUS with BITTER GREENS

1 cup tri-color pearl (Israeli) couscous
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped arugula, or kale, or mustards
1 tablespoon olive oil

Fill a saucepan with 1 quart water. Season with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Pour in couscous and cook according to package directions–about 10 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
Put chopped greens into the saucepan. Pour cooked couscous over the greens.
Add olive oil and stir over very low heat, stirring until the green collapse and wilt in the couscous.

Divide between 2 bowls. Top with chicken, fruits, and braising juices.
Serves 2

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Posted in Gluten Free, Meats/Poultry, Pastas, Recipes, Soups/Stews | 15 Comments »




November 2nd, 2009

A Simple Autumn Supper

hero overshot pork

Now is the ideal time for these good things: pork and sage and honey poached pears and roasted sweet potatoes.

Have you ever grown sweet potatoes?

Earlier this summer, I found one abandoned in the back of my pantry that had sprouted and thought I might try my hand at it.

Following some instruction I found online, I submerged my forsaken one in a bowl of water. After a couple of days, the sprouts leafed out and had the makings of vines. I carefully snapped off these baby vines, (called “slips”) and placed them into a water-filled jar to root.

Again, growing quickly, threadlike roots formed, making 5 individual sweet potato plants. Over the 4th of July holiday, I moved them into their new home at The Hooper Garden. They grew vigorously, suffering only one setback of bunny munching, a tangle of vines competing for space with the wiley watermelon.

Last week a tinge of frost blackened many of the leaves, alerting me that it was time to harvest.

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It became a treasure hunt; I had no idea how these tubers grow, nor how deep! So, I began my cautious dig for these buried treasures, (thinking about the truffle seekers!) following the viney trail and its vast underground network of roots. What a wonder–there were lots of them, some GIGANTIC, some regular, some baby sized.

Nature offers some pretty incredible returns—here’s the math:
One sprouted tuber produced Five plants produced Twenty-five sweet potatoes. Impressive.

Looks like I’ll be making lots of sweet potato treats!

For my initial use, I wanted to make it a part of a simple autumn supper.

I generally don’t eat much pork, but I had a piece of boneless loin, a thick medallion that I had gotten from West Wind Farms. It seemed a natural to companion it with roasted sweet potato slices and my honey-poached pears. The sage plant on my front steps is flourishing, another cool weather cuisine associate, which I like to place directly onto the pork and sauté. Crispy sage leaves are delicious.

pork-pear ingredients

This entire meal takes about thirty minutes to put together. Roasting discs of sweet potatoes couldn’t be simpler—just lay them out on a baking pan, brush with a little olive oil, dust with salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes in a hot oven, say 425 degrees.

roasted sweet potato chips

True, these are odd shaped. I had to cut away a blemish or two.

While the sweet potatoes roast, you can pan-fry the pork. After I rinse off the meat and pat it dry, I rub it with olive oil. Then, I place the sage leaves directly onto the meat, salt and pepper it, and then dust it in flour.

I heat some more olive oil with a little butter in a skillet. When that is heated, butter bubbly, put in the pork. I cook it about 7 minutes a side, let it brown, then flip and repeat. After it’s cooked, I deglaze the pan with some water, stirring the cooked-on bits. The small residue of flour will help this to slightly thicken.

in the skillet

Remember those honey-poached pears? Gently warm those on the stovetop.

Now, to assemble your plate:
Start with the sweet potato discs as your base.
Place the cooked pork medallion on top.
Spoon over the warmed pears.
Drizzle with your deglazed brown sauce.
Garnish with fresh sage.
Eat.

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And enjoy!

a good dinner

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Recipes | 11 Comments »